Friday, December 30, 2011

And more leftovers . . .

Not to beat the leftover topic to death, but I've just got to use more things up around here.  I bought a carton of eggnog for my guests that never got opened.  What to do, what to do . . . mmm . . .

After thinking awhile, I pictured a creamy breakfast smoothie with hints of holiday flavors as the holidays begin to drift away for another year.  A sprinkling of nutmeg on top completed the picture and my delicious breakfast began.

Eggnog Smoothie

1/2 cup (light) eggnog
1/2 cup water
1 tablespoon ground flax seed
2 medium bananas, cut in chunks
Sweetener, to taste
6 ice cubes
Ground nutmeg for garnish, optional

Pour eggnog and water into blender container.  Add flax seed, then bananas and sweetener, if using.  Finally, add ice cubes and blend on high speed 30 seconds until smooth.  Pour into two glasses and sprinkle with nutmeg, if desired.  Each serving has 2 points plus for Weight Watchers or 170 calories.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Leftovers again??

Any special holiday with big meals results in leftovers, right?  Faced with a fridge-full, I decided to combine a few of them into a comforting casserole good for breakfast, lunch, or dinner.

Use whatever leftover breads and veggies you have.  I combined white dinner rolls with whole wheat bread, and used cauliflower, carrots, and celery for the veggies.  Milk would work in place of light sour cream, but since I had this and that to use up, I did.

Hey!  Is anyone else wanting to keep the Christmas dishes out?  I can't bear putting them away just yet.

Savory Strata
4 cups chopped assorted raw vegetables
2 teaspoons garlic olive oil, or plain olive oil if that's what you have
1 teaspoon salt, divided
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided
5 ounces any type bread, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
2 teaspoons any chopped fresh herbs (I used sage and rosemary)
4 ounces Jarlsberg Lite Swiss cheese, grated (about 1 cup)
1 1/2 cups nonfat liquid egg substitute
1/2 cup light sour cream

Preheat oven to 400°F.  Coat baking sheet with parchment paper or nonstick spray.  Toss vegetables with oil, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper.  Spread in one layer on pan and roast 15 minutes, stir, then roast another 15 minutes until browned; set aside to cool slightly.

Coat 8 by 8-inch baking pan with nonstick spray.  Place bread cubes on bottom of pan.  Sprinkle with herbs and vegetables and 2/3 of the cheese.  In small mixing bowl, whisk together egg substitute, sour cream, remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper.  Pour over ingredients in pan and sprinkle with remaining cheese.

Cover strata, and chill for at least two hours or overnight.  Remove pan from refrigerator and preheat oven to 350°F.  Bake strata for 30 minutes until puffed and golden.  Makes 6 servings, 4 points plus for Weight Watchers or 195 calories each.  Nutritional information will vary depending on the leftovers you have in your kitchen.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

It's a Holiday!

*     *    *     Decadent Day     *     *    *

If Christmas isn't the perfect day for a Decadent Day, then I don't know what is.  I'm sharing a special dessert today that will sweeten your holiday without blowing your calorie budget.

I created this trifle for a guest post at My (Newly)Wed Life, a special blog I love following.  While Ana is away in Brazil, she is featuring a variety of guest bloggers and she selected me as one.  I told a little bit about Tracy Cooks it Right and then enticed Ana's readers with dessert.  I chose the combination of peppermint and chocolate because these flavors epitomize  Christmas to me.

Holiday Trifle

2/3 cup sugar
4 ounces Neufchatel (light cream) cheese, room temperature
1/2 cup nonfat plain Greek yogurt
1/3 cup chocolate syrup
1/4 teaspoon peppermint extract
2 cups nondairy frozen whipped topping, thawed (I used Trader Joe's brand)
8 ounces angel food cake, cubed or torn into bite-size pieces
2 ounces peppermint sticks, crushed (about 1/4 cup)
1 small chocolate like a Dove Miniature, grated

In mixing bowl, beat together sugar, Neufchatel, yogurt, chocolate syrup, and peppermint extract.  Add whipped topping and beat until well combined.

Place one third angel food cake in bottom of trifle or other glass bowl.  Measure one cup chocolate peppermint mixture and pour evenly over cake.  Sprinkle with one third crushed peppermint sticks.  Repeat layers twice, but sprinkle grated chocolate on top layer before final sprinkling of crushed peppermint.

Cover and chill several hours before serving.  Makes 12 servings, 5 points plus for Weight Watchers or 202 calories each.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Christmas Couscous

Since red and green are Christmas colors, this dish represents the holiday well.  Here, the sparkle of flavors from mint and cranberries and the pungent soft goat cheese make this dish memorable.

Couscous is such a quick and easy grain to make -  it takes barely more than five minutes.  Add some pizazz and you have a delightful side dish for a special holiday meal.

Christmas Couscous

1 cup uncooked couscous, whole grain if possible
2 teaspoons roasted sesame oil
1 small red onion, chopped
1 large garlic clove, minced
1/4 cup dried cranberries
1/4 cup chopped fresh mint
1 ounce goat cheese, crumbled
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Cook couscous according to package directions;  set aside and keep covered.  Meanwhile, in large skillet, heat oil over medium heat.  Add onion and garlic and cook until onion is translucent. 

Stir in couscous, dried cranberries, mint, goat cheese, salt, and pepper, and serve immediately.  Makes 6 (2/3-cup) servings, 4 points plus for Weight Watchers or 158 calories each.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Creamy Cranberry Dressing

Eating crisp green salads seems to help balance out the rich dishes of the holiday season.  A pretty pink salad dressing that is light in both texture and calories makes the salads more appealing.

Serve this dressing over greens bejeweled with dried cranberries and heirloom cherry tomatoes, or on a fancier salad like this one.  It's sweet-tart combination gives the salad a real zing, and also, it uses up some of your leftover cranberry sauce.

Creamy Cranberry Dressing

1/2 cup reduced fat mayonnaise
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
1 tablespoon milk (I used unsweetened almond milk)
1 tablespoon cranberry sauce
1 1/2 teaspoons poppy seeds

Measure all ingredients into small bowl and whisk together until smooth.  Serve over salad.  Makes 13 tablespoons, 1 point plus for Weight Watchers or 42 calories each.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Sparkling Refresher!

A favorite drink of mine is an Italian white wine called Prosecco.  It's light and sparkling and perfect for any occasion.  At Christmastime, I love a touch of gingerbread syrup added to a glass of Prosecco - a drink named by cookbook author Nigella Lawson as "Christmas in a Glass."  I love that.

This drink takes Prosecco a different direction but still remains a great refreshment at a holiday gathering.  With a pile of fresh mint to use up, I envisioned a Mojito-type drink.  The use of agave instead of the usual white sugar in a Mojito alleviated dissolving the sugar.

If you prefer not to drink alcohol, substitute a diet or regular lemon-lime soda for the Prosecco.

Prosecco Mojito

12 fresh mint leaves, torn if large
1 tablespoon agave nectar
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lime juice
4 ounces Prosecco
Crushed ice

Place mint leaves in bottom of tall glass.  Add agave and lime juice and muddle.  (Muddling is combining ingredients by pressing them with a tool that is flat on the bottom called a muddler.  The back side of a spoon will work in a pinch.)  Pour in Prosecco and fill glass with crushed ice.  Makes one serving, 5 points plus for Weight Watcher or 130 calories each.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Jacques' Potatoes

Do you talk about food while exercising?  Surprise!  I do.  As we worked side by side on the ellipticals at the gym, my friend described a potato dish he planned to make.  It was popularized by Jacques Pepin yet I had not heard of it.  Intrigued as always, I went right home and looked it up.

My recipe is very loosely based on Jacques Pepin's "Potatoes Fondantes."  The true recipe calls for tiny, whole potatoes, but since mine were big, I cut them in small pieces and forged ahead.  As you can see, when prepared, they are scattered-looking instead of nice and neat.  No problem, the flavor will win you over despite the messiness.

Jacques' Smashed Potatoes

1 1/2 pounds red or yukon gold potatoes, preferably small
1 sprig fresh rosemary
1 1/2 cups low sodium vegetable broth
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon salt, kosher, if possible

If potatoes are not about 1 1/2 inches in diameter, cut them into 1 1/2-inch chunks.  Place in one layer in bottom of large nonstick skillet and toss in rosemary.  Pour broth and olive oil over potatoes, and sprinkle with salt.  Bring to a boil over high heat.  Reduce heat to medium and cover, keeping lid slightly ajar.  Boil about 20 minutes until potatoes are tender.

If liquid is not halfway covering potatoes, add a little more broth or water.  Remove pan from heat and smash each potato or potato chunk lightly with fork.   Place pan back on medium-high heat and boil about 10 minutes, until liquid has evaporated and potatoes are brown on one side.  Flip potatoes and brown other side, about 5 minutes.

Let potatoes rest five minutes before serving.  Makes 6 (about 2/3-cup) servings, 3 points plus for Weight Watchers or 128 calories per serving.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Happy Birthday Dinner

My special birthday dinner was delightful.  At a popular Italian restaurant, I chose the "pasta special,"  roasted butternut squash and cheese tortellini surrounded by a luscious cream sauce.  It was just a matter of time before a version would be on my dinner table at home.

Winter pictures taken at night don't do food justice.  The pasta was creamy and garlicky and oh so rich.  The contrast of colors and textures added interest to the dish.  Close enough to the restaurant version, it brought back happy memories of a lovely evening.

Tortellini with Roasted Winter Squash

1 1/2 pounds winter squash, any type
2 tablespoons packed brown sugar
2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
2 (9-ounce) packages fresh cheese tortellini, preferably whole wheat
3/4 cup unsweetened almond milk or nonfat dairy milk
6  Laughing Cow Light Creamy Swiss cheese wedges, room temperature
2 teaspoons butter or trans fat free margarine
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons roasted pumpkin seeds (pepitas)

Preheat oven to 400°F.  Peel and remove seeds from squash.  Cut into cubes and place in a pile on baking sheet coated with olive oil spray or parchment paper.  Sprinkle with brown sugar and olive oil.  Toss together, then spread in one layer.  Roast 15 minutes, stir, then roast 15 minutes more until brown on edges.

Meanwhile, in large pot, cook tortellini according to package directions.  Drain pasta and return it to pot.

Place milk, cheese wedges, butter or margarine, garlic, and salt in medium saucepan.  Cook, stirring frequently, until creamy and thick, about 10 minutes.

Stir roasted squash gently into pasta and spoon into a serving dish.  Pour sauce evenly over the top.  Sprinkle with Parmesan and pumpkin seeds and serve immediately.  Makes 8 servings, 7 points plus for Weight Watchers or 314 calories each.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

My son, the cook

Clark asked to guest post on Tracy Cooks it Right.  He is an excellent cook, when in the mood, and he has intriguing ideas.  He works hard all day, then works out hard.  He knows he feels better when choosing healthy foods.  He recently made a fabulous Jambalaya for the family which I hope he shares someday.  Today I welcome Clark and his creativity from his apartment kitchen.  Please enjoy! 

                                       *                             *                            *

There are nights you don't have the energy to go to the gym. There are nights you want to eat light. And then there are nights where the gym is no longer appealing, you don't want to eat a lot, and you have no money. But hunger is hunger and sometimes you gotta put something in the tank.

Clark Cooks What's Left - SIMPLE MAN STIRFRY


Pack of Frozen Vegetables - Preferably Asian Blend  
Laughing Cow Cheese
BBQ Sauce
Cajun Seasoning


Put butter in the pan to melt. Then dump the entire bag of vegetables into the frying pan. Put another glob of butter on top of the veggies so you know when they are heating up. As they heat up, dump in 2 triangles of laughing cow swiss. Once that begins to melt, splash in some bbq sauce and add cajun seasoning to flavor. The laughing cow, butter, bbq sauce, and cajun seasoning will all melt together to coat the veggies in a rustic, authentic, smokey, creamy dressing with a little kick! You'll be full for hours and skinny too!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Cornbread Casserole

When my sister finds a recipe she loves, she sticks with it.  Her Cornbread Casserole is dee-licious!  I recently felt inspired to come up with my own version that would not break the calorie and fat bank.

I was able to cut the fat by more than half with no sacrifice in flavor.  This recipe calls for store-bought cornbread mix.  I recommend you read the ingredient lists and choose one with the "cleanest" sounding ingredients.  I chose the 6.5-ounce package from Betty Crocker.  The method is easy since all you do is combine everything, bake, and enjoy!  (Just don't tell my sister I fiddled with her recipe.)

Cornbread Casserole

1/4 cup butter or trans fat free margarine
3 egg whites
1 (6.5 to 8.5-ounce) package cornbread mix
1 (15 1/4-ounce) can whole kernel corn, drained
1 (14 3/4-ounce) can cream style corn
6 ounces nonfat plain Greek yogurt
1 tablespoon sugar

Preheat oven to 350°F.  Coat a 9 by 9 or 11 by 7-inch baking pan with olive oil spray.  In medium microwave safe mixing bowl, melt butter or margarine.  Add all other ingredients and stir until well combined.  Spread in prepared pan and bake 45 minutes until golden brown on top.  Makes 8 servings, 6 points plus for Weight Watchers or 219 calories each.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Cider Chicken Chowder

Does it bother you to have partially drunk sparkling cider bottles (or soda, or any other drink) hanging around after a party?  It does me.  When it happened this time, I decided to find a way to use it.

I wasn't sure how these flavors would blend, but they sounded good.  Turns out it is a delicious combination and a recipe I will make again, even if I have to open a new bottle of cider!

Cider Chicken Chowder

1 tablespoon olive oil
3 medium shallots or 1 medium onion, chopped
1 large stalk celery, chopped
1 small fennel bulb, chopped, optional but good
12 ounces chicken breast, cubed (I used vegetarian Gardein Chick'n Scallopini)
1 medium apple, cored, peeled, and chopped
1 cup chicken or vegetable broth
1 cup apple cider, sparkling or not
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon dried sage leaves, crumbled
1/4 cup fat free creamer (I used So Delicious Original Coconut Milk Creamer)
1/4 cup sour cream

In large saucepan, warm olive oil over medium heat.  Add shallots or onion, celery, fennel, if using, and chicken.  Cook until shallots or onions are translucent, then stir in apple, broth, cider, salt, and sage.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer 30 minutes.

Remove pot from heat: stir in creamer and sour cream, and serve immediately.  Makes 4 (1 1/4-cup) servings,  5 points plus for Weight Watchers or 249 calories each.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Winter Broccoli Salad

I found myself with a boat-load of broccoli so Broccoli Salad was on the menu.  A "wintery" spin with pecans, persimmon, cranberries, and maple syrup took this salad to a new level.

This is a Fuyu persimmon.  I wanted you to see it so you would not use a Hachiya persimmon by mistake.  They are different in taste, appearance, and texture.  This Fuyu is firm and sweet.  The Hachiya is heart-shaped rather than round, and it must be mushy before it is sweet enough to eat.  The Hachiya works best in quick breads and bar cookies.

P. S. You can substitute a pear or an apple if you choose not to use a persimmon.

Winter Broccoli Salad

1 head raw broccoli, florets only, chopped
1/4 cup finely chopped red onion
2 ounces reduced fat Monterey Jack cheese, grated
1 Fuyu persimmon, peeled and diced
2 tablespoons dried cranberries
2 tablespoons (1/2 ounce) chopped toasted pecans
1/3 cup reduced fat mayonnaise
1 tablespoon maple syrup

In medium bowl, combine broccoli, onion, cheese, persimmon, cranberries, and pecans.  In small bowl, stir together mayonnaise and maple syrup.  Add to broccoli mixture and mix well.  Chill one hour before serving and serve within 24 hours for best texture.  Makes 5 (3/4-cup) servings, 3 points plus for Weight Watchers or 180 calories each.