These burgers have become one of my family’s most popular summertime grill requests- they’re juicy, tasty, and a great calorie bargain. If you like sauerkraut, that’d be great on these burgers, or you could do some sauteed onions and peppers- but I just like plain old yellow mustard on mine!
Now the instructions below are really straightforward on this recipe, but I do have one little secret to share that will help make these a breeze to put together- it’s my burger maker gizmo. Very high tech as you can see! It cost me less than $5, and works like a charm!
I like this one because there is nothing on the bottom from where I have to dig the burger out of- I just place my ball of meat on a cutting mat, cover it with a plastic baggie, (the bread, twisty tie kind- it’s thinner so it allows better formation of the patty) cover the meat ball with my burger press,
then hold the bottom part in place, while pushing down gently on the plunger thing up top until there’s resistance. Take the press off, and, VOILA! Perfectly shaped patties every time! If I do it just right, the press doesn’t even get dirty- now what girl wouldn’t be a fan of that?!
One final tip for this post- I make these burgers in batches of about a dozen or so, or 3 to 4 pounds of meat, at a time. Bob grills them all at once, and when they’re cool I vacuum seal each one individually so I’ll have a quick and easy meal any time I need one.
No, your eyes are not broken- these are not burgers, just a bunch of meat I’ve sealed just like I do my burgers, in individual packages, so they’ll be quick to thaw and cook when I’m in a pinch.
Oh, and here’s a link for the spice blend I use- we have a Penzeys Spice Shop close by, but if you don’t you can order- and they’ll send you a catalog of their stuff, which is jammed full of recipes! Click hereto find “Bratwurst Sausage Seasoning.”
Banana Pudding (Nanner Puddin, as my cousin Tommy calls it) is one of my very favorite summertime treats. The thing about this southern specialty is that it can be ridiculously high in calories! Some recipes I’ve looked at run in the neighborhood of 600 or more calories per serving!
But my version is sweet, silky, refreshingly cool, and at just around 230 calories, it’s a fairly painless splurge!
Here’s all you really need to make Nanner Puddin- so simple, yet so satisfying! : )
One of the tricks I’ve learned that makes my version taste more like higher calorie versions is adding the caviar of a vanilla bean to the pudding.
Nothing I’ve found adds quite the richness and depth of flavor like this does! In absence of this, use a really good pure vanilla extract- I make my own with vanilla beans and a good quality Bourbon; it’s much cheaper and definitely better than the store bought stuff.
So, to get started, I take a vanilla bean, and scrape the caviar (seeds) out. Don’t be intimidated- it’s really pretty easy and you’ll love the flavor and how it fragrances your kitchen! Just keep reading and I’ll show you how.
*As always, I don’t receive compensation to recommend or favorably review any product. I just share the things that are working for me so you can enjoy them too. : ) You can see my policy on this here.
First, cut the ends of the beans off, then run the tip of a sharp knife along the bean, lengthwise, trying to only cut through the top layer of the bean.
See the tiny little dark brown specks on my fingertip? Those are the seeds!! That’s what you see in good quality ice cream and other products that contain real vanilla caviar. For more pics of the process, click here.
Now, don’t throw the rest of the bean away!!! Cut it into sections like this, and throw them into a mason jar, along with some good Bourbon or Vodka, and some whole beans, prepared as instructed here; in about 8 weeks or so, you’ll have made your very own pure vanilla extract. How cool is that?! I just keep adding the beans as I use them, which only intensifies the extract. I make all kinds of extracts- mint, lime, coffee, etc., but that’s another post. : )
So, now just follow the directions below for how to make and assemble your Nanner Puddin!
I like to make individual servings- not that I’d ever think of eating an entire recipe, and therefore would need portion control… ; ) A mason jar with a lid makes it so easy to make them ahead and they make a pretty presentation.
So, grab a spoon, a jar of goodness, and ENJOY!!
Silky and sweet, cool and refreshing; banana pudding is one of my very favorite summertime treats.
Cut the ends off the vanilla bean. Score the bean lengthwise with a sharp knife, trying to cut through the top layer only. Open the bean along the split at one end, then place the dull side of a knife or spoon at the end, and carefully scrape toward the other end, gathering the caviar onto the utensil. (See above pics.) Place the caviar in the bowl, preferably metal or glass, that you'll use to make the pudding.
Add the Jell-o mix, and the soy milk (or milk) to the bowl, then whisk to combine. Place the bowl in the fridge for a few minutes until the pudding firms up.
Note: I sometimes use the soy milk due to a milk allergy in the family, and I love that it has fewer calories, even than skim milk. However, when I use it, the pudding doesn't firm up quite as quickly, or as much, as when I use dairy milk. The soy mixture can actually be a bit soupy when I assemble the dish, but once it's allowed to set up in the fridge for a few hours, or overnight, it sets up just fine.
While the pudding is chilling, count out the Nilla Wafers. If making one big casserole, I usually leave the cookies whole, but when I'm making individual servings I like to break them up a bit. I just use a sharp knife and roughly chop them into four pieces each, which allows me to spread them out a bit more evenly.
Cut the bananas as you like. Sometimes I slice them fairly thin, which allows me to spread them out a bit; other times I slice them thick and quarter them, for a more chunky texture.
Once the pudding has set, take it from the fridge and carefully fold the cool whip in. Set aside for a few minutes.
Arrange one third of the cookies in the serving dish. When making individual servings, I place a very small amount of pudding in the bottom of the dish to keep the cookie pieces spread out and in place, but when making a large casserole, I just arrange one third of the cookies evenly over the bottom.
Arrange one third of the banana pieces over the cookies.
Spoon one third of the pudding over the bananas and cookies, and gently spread evenly.
Repeat two more times, using up all of the cookies, bananas, and pudding,
If you like, you can crush up a few extra Nilla Wafers to spread over the top as garnish. I use my meat pounding mallet or food processor. The mallet is a fabulous tension reliever if you've had that kind of a day! ; )
Now I know how tempting it is to dive right in, but if you can stand it, put your masterpiece in the fridge for a few hours or overnight, which will allow it to set more firmly, and gives the cookies a chance to soften up just a bit. Whenever you just can't stand it for one more minute, grab a spoon and go for it!
So, who doesn’t love whipping up pancakes, biscuits, muffins, etc. from those fabulously quick and easy baking mixes for breakfast? Or dinner… or whenever you want, really. Everyone I know does! But using them when you’re trying to watch calories isn’t all that easy. There is often no way of figuring out how to get the suggested serving size when using the recipe given on the package; the suggested serving often has a lot more calories in it than you may want; the recipe often makes a huge number of servings, and unless you’ve got a ton people at you table you may not want that much food sitting around, or going to waste; and following the suggested recipe often means adding ingredients that will heap even more calories on top of those already in the mix. So, I know lots of you avoid using mixes- we all crave the tantalizing goodies the offer, but at what cost?
Well, who says you have to follow the label’s suggested serving size… or the directions, for that matter? No one- that’s who!!
I say we can determine our own serving sizes, and directions- as long as we can do some reallysimple math!! Now, don’t faint or stop reading, I promise we’re not going to have to brush up on trig, calculus, or anything ridiculous like that. Just simple multiplication and division- and calculators are definitely allowed, even encouraged! This is Abbynormalmath, and that’s just how we roll! So, stick with me here, and you’ll be customizing those baking mixes in no time, saving lots of calories, time, and even money. Yes, money, because when you use precisely what you need, not an entire recipe that may go to waste, mixes go a lot further!
Now, we’re going to use a lot of equivalent measurements, but don’t worry- at the end of this post I’ll give you a table you can use to make conversions in all of your customization adventures. In the meantime, I’ll do them for the examples we’ll work through together.
So, let’s get started! A few weeks ago I found this amazing looking ToastedCoconut Pancake Mix, but the suggested serving size contained 220 calories…. muah, muah, muah… that’s just about 60 cals more than I like to devote to a carb-y kind of item in any meal.
Alas, it looked soooooooooo yummy… and comforting. But thanks to many (way too many) agonizing math lesson sessions with my dad and hubby, (bless their hearts) I knew I could adjust the serving size and get it to right around the max of 160 cals I wanted. And these pancakes really are to die for!
Now here’s the math part, so get your calculator and don’t worry- I’ll walk you right through it! The nutrition label says 7 tablespoons (or 57 grams) of the dry mix contains 220 cals. Well, I figure I want my pancake to have about 3/4ths that many calories, or 75% of 220 cals. So, I punched into my calculator:
57 (grams) X .75
and the answer I got was 42.75. I rounded that (because my scale isn’t quite that sensitive) and got that I should use 43 grams of the mix. I figured the calories in this serving size the same way:
220 (cals) X .75 = 165 cals
Or, if you don’t like weighing your ingredients, you could instead punch in:
7 (tbsp) X .75
which gives you 5.25 (tbsp) so you’d round and just use about 5 tbsp.
Now here comes the part where we might have to experiment just a bit. Since we’re not using the directions, we have no idea how much liquid to add, that will make the batter the correct consistency. I used a very small bowl, placed the mix in there, and used a tiny (very adorable) whisk, and added water, 1 Tbsp at a time, whisked to see how it looked, then added another, until I got it to where I liked the way it looked and acted when I stirred it. It turned out to be approximately 2 & 1/2 Tbsp that made it seem about right to me. The results were perfect, and I consider that success!! So now that you know how to do this, you can apply it to almost any mix.
Now that we’ve gotten a simple custom modification down, let’s move on to a slightly more complicated example- one that involves egg… s… well, parts of eggs.
Looking at the nutritional info, in the pic below, I see that the suggested serving size fits fairly well into my plan, so 1/3 of a cup of the mix makes me a pretty happy girl.
Looking at the recipe, I see it calls for 2 cups of mix- so, no problem- I know that the 1/3 cup portion of the dry mix I want to use is 1/6th of the 2 cups of dry mix the recipe calls for- so all I really need to do is make 1/6th of the entire recipe.
Therefore, I’ll just use a 1/6th portion of each of the rest of the ingredients. Right?
Well, yes! If I could figure out what 1/6th of the 2 eggs the entire recipe calls for measures. And how to measure less than a whole egg evenly- you know, with that whole they don’t really mix up so you can easily just pour a little bit out, without the entire clump plopping right out, all together thing happening. Good news- I can take care of both of those things! To solve the problem of how clumpy raw eggs are when you try to pour them, I use Egg Beaters instead of whole eggs, which eliminates fat and makes the measuring thing a whole lot easier- they pour and measure beautifully!
As far as how to figure how much 1/6th of 2 eggs measures, I just happen to know from my former life, as a cake baker and decorator, that an average egg measures 1/4 of a cup.
That’s 4 Tbsp. So the entire recipe calls for 2 eggs, or 8 Tbsp. 1/6th of 8 is 1.333 Tbsp. 1 Tbsp = 3 teaspoons. So I’ll use 1 Tbsp + 1 tsp of Egg Beaters in my customized recipe.
Next, the entire recipe calls for 1 & 1/4 cup water, which is 20 Tbsp. 20 Tbsp divided by 6 is 3.33 Tbsp, so I’ll add 3 Tbsp + 1 tsp. I’ve been known to eliminate that + 1 tsp of water, and add 1 tsp of vanilla extract instead… and maybe add a sprinkle of cinnamon too… options, it’s all about options!
Finally, the entire recipe calls for 4 Tbsp of butter, which is 12 teaspoons. 12 divided by 6 is 2 tsp of butter that would be added to my customized recipe. Now I need to make a decision… I’m really not ok with including that much fat, as it would bump the calories up by 67, and when added to the 170 cals that the dry mix contains, I’m way above where I want to be. So, I’ll eliminate the butter and spray the waffle iron very lightly with non-stick cooking spray instead. The waffles aren’t quite as crispy, but I’m ok with that if it allows me to lose or maintain my weight. It’s totally up to you, though- if a waffle that’s 237 cals fits into your program, then add the 2 tsp of butter- I definitely would! This is all about making it the way you need to, to fit into your program or requirements, and knowing how to make adjustments to any recipe, to do just that.
So, my final customized waffle recipe is:
1/3 cup waffle mix
1 Tablespoon + 1 tsp Egg Beaters
3 Tablespoons + 1 tsp water
Or, substitute 1 tsp vanilla extract for 1 tsp of the water
Now, just follow the prep instructions on the can and make your customized waffle recipe that suits your needs. I like to divide the batter and make 2 waffles out of this- they won’t fill in the entire mold, and they’ll look irregular, but I kind of like that anyway. It does add some extra places for things to be a little crispy, and I’m ok with that too! Top with fresh sliced strawberries, peaches, or some of my favorite sugar free syrup, and you’ve got yourself a really nice treat!
So, there ya go, now you can use what you’ve learned and apply it to any mix so you can make customized adjustments and make the portion size that’s just perfect for you! Happy baking and eating!!
Here’s a chart that will help you make adjustments:
1 & 1/2 tsp = 1/2 Tbsp
3 tsp = 1 Tbsp = 1/2 ounce
2 Tbsp = 1/8 cup = 1 ounce
4 Tbsp = 1/4 cup = 2 ounces
5 & 1/3 Tbsp = 5 Tbsp + 1 tsp = 1/3 cup
8 Tbsp = 1/2 cup = 4 ounces
10 & 2/3 Tbsp = 10 Tbsp + 2 tsp = 2/3 cup
12 Tbsp = 3/4 cup = 6 ounces
16 Tbsp = 1 cup = 8 ounces
1 cup = 1/2 pint = 8 ounces
2 cups = 1 pint = 16 ounces
4 cups = 2 pints = 1 quart = 32 ounces
16 cups = 8 pints = 4 quarts = 128 ounces = 1 gallon
Measuring Eggs, by Volume and Weight
1 extra large or jumbo egg* = 1/4 cup = 4 Tbsp, by volume
= 2.4 ounces = 67 grams, by weight
* 1 extra large egg measures .23 cups and weigh 2.25 ounces, while 1 jumbo egg measures .26 cups and weigh 2.5 ounces. So, I'm taking an average, as they're both very close to 1/4 cup, and I'm guessing there is some variance since eggs aren't produced in exact sizes. So, this is not an exact science but it's a close enough kind of a thing!
Here are my sources of info for this table:
OK- I know I promised no advanced math, and really, this isn’t truly advanced, but I have one more little trick up my sleeve that’s just a bit more complex than the ones I’ve already shown you. And, it’s absolutely free- won’t cost ya a thing extra! If it’s too confusing, don’t worry about it- the stuff we’ve already gone over should help you immensely. But if you’re interested, here’s one last bit of math magic.
What if I wanted to know EXACTLY how much of a mix I need to use, to get a PRECISE, number of calories? I can do that! I’ll use what my dad (who earned a Master’s degree in statistics, but must have forgotten to pass that gene along to me- ha : ) calls a proportion problem, and it’s really just a simple formula. Ok, it does involve just the tiniest bit of algebra, because we’re going to solve for an unknown. But it’s really cool if you can stick with me! And I promise there will be no Mr. “X” that we need to find!
Let’s look at the Toasted Coconut Pancake Mix again- what I do know, from the nutritional label, is that 57 grams of the dry mix has 220 calories. But what I don’t know is how much of it would I use, if I wanted my pancake to have exactly 160 calories?
I can set up an equation to find that out. First, I’ll write, in words, the proportion that’s given on the nutritional label- “there are 220 calories to 57 grams of mix” or I could say it this way, “there are 220 calories for (or in) every 57 grams of mix” and here’s how I write that in “math language”:
57 grams 57 grams
-------- OR to
220 cals 220 cals
Next, I set the proportion that I want, equal to the one from the label- and I write it like this:
57 grams "?" 57 grams "how many grams?"
-------- = ------- OR is to AS is to
220 cals 160 cals 220 cals 160 cals
(Notice I did NOT use “X” just for you! I’ve used “?” to represent “how many grams?”
So, now, we cross multiply, which means we multiply the numbers that are diagonally across from each other and set them equal to each other- like this:
220 times “?” = 57 times 160
or, as it would look in a math book, (minus the whole “X” thing of course)
(220) (“?”) = (57) (160)
And, when I multiply on the right, I get:
(220) (“?”) = 9120
Now, we need to get our “?” all by itself, on the left, so we divide both sides by 220, which looks like this:
On the left, 220 divided by 220 is 1, and 1 times “?” equals “?”, so we have “?” all by itself! Woo Hoo!
On the right, 9120 divided by 220 is 41, so that’s what we have on the right.
And so now our equation looks like this:
“?” = 41
Since we said that “?” means “how many grams?” our equation tells me:
“how many grams?” = 41, or, “how many grams?” is 41
So, now I know that if I want my pancake to have exactly 160 calories, I need to use precisely 41 grams of the mix.
I know, I know, that’s a bit more math than the other methods, but it really helps me get the cals exactly where I need them to be!! Now, please don’t anyone tell my dad this- I swore up one side, and down the other, when he tried to teach me math that I’d never, ever use this, as he predicted I would- every day, for the rest of my life. And the truth is, I don’t… I don’t use it every day! Maybe several times a week…. Ok, Dad was absolutely RIGHT… I use this all the time! And I hope you will too!
OK, I’ll probably have him check my work, just for old time’s sake. : )
I know, I just posted the original version of this recipe, but I played with it a bit last night, and I got an update-worthy reaction from my hubby. Just so you understand a little about why I say that, you should know that he is no pushover when it comes to what he likes to eat, and being a left-brained engineer type, he is definitely not a man of anywhere near as many words as his right-brained wife! You see, Bob’s mom was an absolutely amazing cook and she set quite a standard for me to keep…. But she was infinitely patient with me- it took her several years, but she graciously taught me what amounted to a “Care & Feeding of a Southern Gentleman” course.
Nowadays my sweet guy is generally quite happy with the things I make, but the essence of his male-engineerness means he isn’t always terribly liberal or straightforward about verbalizing his thoughts on the subject. A perfect example is what he told me on our 5th wedding anniversary- with a completely straight face, and in all seriousness, he said, “You’re a much better cook than you were five years ago.” At the time I didn’t quite know what to make of that, but now I know it was, indeed, high praise.
So last night, when he got a spoonful of these potatoes, and I got another supreme compliment, I knew this one was another winner! Oh- what he said was, “This is also a restaurant worthy recipe!” (The “also” refers to what he said about the first version of this recipe- the fries with this spice blend on them.) So I knew I needed to share it. I hope and think Roselyn would be happy about what I’ve done with the lessons she gave me. : ]
Anyway, to make my mashed version from last night, start by preparing the brown sugar and spice blend, as given here, with this addition:
1/2 teaspoon ground fennel seed
Next, bake about about 1.5 to 2 pounds of sweet potatoes until they’re very soft, scoop the flesh out of the skin, mash them up very well, and add:
1/4 to 1/2 cup orange juice
Now, just blend it all together very well, put the mixture in a casserole sprayed with non-stick spray and bake, in a 375F oven, for 30 minutes or so, just until piping hot.
I mentioned that I thought maybe the cayenne pepper could be upped a bit- to 1/4th of a teaspoon, but Bob said, “No, it’s just right.” You can adjust as you like.
Here’s my recipe that takes advantage of conveniently pre-peeled and cubed sweet potatoes from my grocery store’s produce department. This is super simple and quick to put together, and everyone here at my house absolutely loves it, so it’s a win-win! If you want, you can buy sweet potatoes whole, peel them, and cut them into fries- we like them both ways. Just around 140 cals* per serving.
Here it is! My Weight Watchers weigh-in record from last night… see where it says Total: -100? That means I’ve lost one hundred pounds…
I’ll say it again- 100 lbs! (In case you’re wondering, I don’t always decorate my record, but when I do, it’s because it’s a really special occasion.)
So, how did I do this? Well, there are lots and lots of things that helped me, many specifics of which I’m going to share in my next post, but I just couldn’t wait to share a few of the ones that have been super important.
There are three crucial things that allowed me to achieve what I never could have dreamed possible.
First of all, I’ve had an amazingsupport system!
My husband has been willing to put up with my cooking “experiments,” some of which were absolutely horrendous, but fortunately, many more were pretty good. Completely re-learning how to cook took some practice! He never complained, and ate whatever I made- what a blessing!
Allie and I have been going to Weight Watchers meetings, shopping, eating, cooking, and losing weight together, from the very first night when we began this journey together. And Ashelyn has been my constant cheerleader, along with my entire extended family- parents, aunts, uncles, cousins, so many of my friends, and my Weight Watchers leaders and fellow members.
Seriously- there is absolutely no way I could have done this, apart from support! It hasn’t been nearly as hard as I thought it’d be, but it wasn’t easy either, so without encouragement, support, patience, and acceptance, it would’ve been almost impossible not to give up. I still have a way to go, but I’m looking forward to reaching my goal.
Secondly, as far as food goes…
I certainly haven’t ever felt horribly deprived! I found things that satisfy the sweet tooth, but aren’t so high in calories. Who would’ve thought you could have truffles and lose so much? (Try the Skinny Cow mint chocolate ice cream sandwiches too- they’re amazing!)
So many really good alternatives- you might ask, “Seriously, salted caramel brownies?” YES! Can I have the whole box? Nope. But I can have a couple with a big glass of ice cold milk- if I’m careful with my points the rest of the day. And I am. Every day- I have something sweet every single day.
I was determined not to settle for anything that I hated eating- “diet” salad dressings were always my pet peeve. Most are honestly just nasty, but I’ve found a few that I truly love, like this one! I’ve found this brand at Wal-Mart and Target super stores.
I still eat most of the things I’ve always loved! Not losing weight was not an option, but neither was giving up all of my favorite things- so I just learned to make them in different ways.
In the case of my deviled eggs, I use a combination of Low Fat and Fat Free mayo- honestly, I can’t tell the difference between these and the ones I’ve made with regular mayo.
I’ve found lots and lots of products that don’t taste like what I’ve encountered in the past, i.e. “diet” foods. The new products I’m finding now may not taste or act exactly like full fat / calorie versions, but they’re really good, and I’ve learned how to use them in ways that mean I honestly don’t miss the full fat products.
Here’s a perfect example:
And, third, there’s exercise…
I’m not going to lie- activity is probably my least favorite part of the program, but having pretty workout clothes helps! Water aerobics, or H2O Fitness class, does make this part more fun than almost any other kind of exercise I’ve tried- you almost can’t hurt yourself while exercising in the pool, and there is absolutely no sweat involved. That’s as good as it gets for this girl!
Well, OK, a nice bike ride with the hubby on a cool summer evening, providing there are no bugs, low humidity, and no rain… that’s been a great way to get some activity in also. A pretty bike never hurts either. Are you noticing a trend? Pretty things to wear and ride help! I don’t think I’m going to get a horse out of this, but can you blame me for trying?
These are just a few of the things I’ve learned over the past 20 months or so. There are so many more I want to share, and I can’t wait to write posts about all of them! I just really want everyone on the journey with me to know that losing and/or maintaining a healthy weight doesn’t have to be boring or miserable- you really can have delicious food, that makes you feel full and satisfied; you just have to learn a new way of going about it. So, if you’re in, come along with me as I continue to learn, and grow, (in knowledge, not size! : ) and love cooking, eating, and losing more weight- I’ll show you how you can do it too!
This dish combines two of my very favorite cuisines- the ingredients are as traditionally Mexican as they come, while the technique is quintessentially Cajun Jambalaya. The combination is truly worthy of throwing a great big old party, complete with piñata and Mardi Gras beads! And, just so you don’t have to feel guilty when you party, each serving only has about 315 calories*, so relax and enjoy.
*To see my policy on nutritional information, go here and scroll down.
To start with, remove the papery covering and wash the tomatillos, discarding the papery skin. Then quarter them and place, skin side up, on a cookie sheet lined with non-stick foil, sprayed with non-stick cooking spray- I know, a lot of non-stick precautions, but these things get really sticky! Keep them really close together, otherwise the juice that’s released will burn. Place in a 400F oven and roast for 20 to 40 minutes while you prep everything else.
Keep a careful watch on these things- you want them to caramelize, but not burn. Once they get fairly dried out, with some brown to almost black spots, they’re done, so take them out and set them aside. I have to say, tomatillos have not always impressed me- I’ve used them before, but recently learned about roasting them and now I’m in love! They add a sweet and tangy flavor that isn’t like anything else.
Put the chicken breast cubes in a large non-stick skillet, sprayed with non-stick spray, and sauté, allowing them to brown then caramelize.
While the chicken cooks, wash and dice the onions and peppers. Just treat the poblanos like regular bell peppers- wash and then clean out the membranes and seeds. They smell like they’d add heat, but they really don’t add much, if any- maybe some warmth, but definitely a distinctively Mexican flavor.
When it’s done, remove the chicken to a large casserole, sprayed with non-stick spray, scattered evenly over the bottom, and then spread the rice evenly over the chicken.
Add the onions, peppers, and olive oil to the skillet and sauté until tender and lightly caramelized.
While the veggies are sautéing, combine the seasonings, tomatoes, broth, and Frontera* sauce in a bowl, and stir to combine.
Once the veggies are done, scatter them, along with the corn, and zest over the rice. Here’s the corn I use- have I mentioned that I LOVE Trader Joe’s* stores?!
Now, just gently and carefully pour the stock mixture over top of the whole thing. Cover the casserole with foil and place in a 400F oven for 45 minutes to an hour, just until the rice is done.
In the meantime, cut the cherry or grape tomatoes in half. These are the tomatoes I get when I can find them. They aren’t like anything I’ve ever had- the tang and sweet tastes come at different times! I love these things, and eat them like candy when I can get the huge container at Sam’s Club or Costco. Or, I get the smaller one at the grocery store and hide them!
Once the rice is done, take the foil off, and carefully distribute the roasted tomatillos over the top- I had to use a spatula and peel / scrape each one off the cookie sheet, then place it on top of the casserole. Also, scatter the tomatoes over the top. Put the casserole back onto the oven, uncovered, and continue to bake for 15 to 20 minutes more, until the edges and top have toasted up a bit. With each serving, be sure to include some of the soft inside and some of the toasted sides and top. You can garnish with extra cilantro, sour cream, grated cheese, and/or lime juice, freshly squeezed over the top.
So, there ya go, my take on fusion, the very best of two delicious worlds, so…
Fiestaon the Bayou
Fiesta On The Bayou
This recipe makes enough to feed a small army, but you can cut it in half if you're only feeding a few. No matter how many diners, this dish turns dinner into a festive event! Or, make a huge batch and freeze individual servings for a night when you you're not too pooped to party, but don't have the energy or time to cook.
This recipe makes enough to feed a small army, but you can cut it in half if you're only feeding a few. No matter how many diners, this dish turns dinner into a festive event! Or, make a huge batch and freeze individual servings for a night when you you're not too pooped to party, but don't have the energy or time to cook.
Preheat oven to 400F.
Peel the papery skin from the tomatillos, then wash and quarter them. Place on a cookie sheet lined with non-stick foil, sprayed wit non-stick spray, keeping them close together. Roast in oven until fairly dried and browned, about 20 to 40 minutes. Remove from the oven and set aside.
Spray a very large rectangular casserole with non stick cooking spray. While the tomatillos roast, Cook and brown the chicken in a large non-stick skillet sprayed with non-stick spray. When cooked through and caramelized, scatter evenly in the bottom of the casserole.
Distribute the rice in the casserole, evenly, over the chicken.
Clean and dice the onions and peppers and place them in the skillet. Allow liquid to release and cook off. Add olive oil and cook until very tender and caramelized, stirring occasionally.
While veggies are cooking, combine crushed tomatoes, Frontera sauce, stock, and seasonings in a bowl and set aside.
When the veggies are done, scatter them evenly in the casserole.
Gently pour the stock mixture over the veggies in the casserole, being careful not to disturb ingredients.
Cover casserole with foil and place in the oven for 45 to 60 minutes, or until rice is done.
While casserole cooks, wash and halve the cherry or grape tomatoes.
When rice is cooked, remove the foil, arrange the tomatillos over the top, along with the halved tomatoes, and continue to bake for 15 to 20 minutes, in order to allow the top and edges to toast and become a little crunchy, about 15 to 20 minutes.
When the top and sides a crunchy, remove the casserole and serve immediately with garnishes.
Serve piping hot, with garnishes if desired.
*As always, I don't accept compensation in exchange for favorably reviewing or recommending any product or company- you can see my policy on this here.
A few nights ago, I sent Bob to the store to get a rotisserie chicken- it was Weight Watchers night, and I knew I’d be starving for dinner but wouldn’t want to cook. Bless his heart, when we got home, he’d gotten a chicken, cut it all up, set the table, AND he brought me a rotisseried (I know, that’s not a real word, but it should be) pork roast for the next night! There are many reasons I married the man, and this kind of thing is just one of them. : ]
So the next night, I pulled out that pork roast and realized I had absolutely nothing to go with it. Golly gee whiz, I thought to myself, guess I’ll just have to make something up, and call it an experiment. Novel idea. I can hear my kids’ eyes rolling round and round, ha ha!
So, I threw lots of things I know Bob loves together, and based on his reaction, it was magical! He went back for fourths– now, you can’t beat that for a ringing endorsement!
Here’s how to do it: To begin with, clean and peel a very large onion, then slice it very thinly. Plate it, along with the olive oil, baking soda, and salt in a large non-stick skillet. Over medium high heat, allow the onions to sweat, or release their moisture, then lower to heat to medium and allow them to continue to cook and brown, stirring occasionally.
If you want more detailed instruction on caramelizing onions, here is a link for a Food Network tutorial.
While the onions cook, peel, core, and slice the apples. I use a fancy shamancy peeler, slicer, corer gadget to do this, like this one. Some have suction cups to hold them in place while you crank the handle; others have to be clamped onto the counter top. I like the suction cup myself, but whatever kind, this thing will change your life when it comes to cooking with apples!
With one of these handy dandy gizmos, I can prep enough apples for a humongous pie or cobbler in a matter of minutes– needless to say, since apple-anything is Bob’s favorite, he thinks they’re worth the investment.
Once you’ve gotten all of the apples prepped, spray a casserole with non-stick cooking spray, then add them, along with everything else, give it a stir, and cover it. Microwave on high for 15 to 20 minutes, or until all of the moisture has been absorbed.
You can serve pork slices on the side, or do what I did and make a casserole out of the whole thing. It’s not quite as sophisticated looking, but what can I say- I like a little bite of everything in every bite!
Clean and peel the onion, slice very thinly, and caramelize in a large non-stick skillet, along with the oil, salt, and baking soda.
Peel, core, and slice the apples.
Spray a casserole with non-stick cooking spray, then add all ingredients and stir to combine well.
Microwave for 15 to 20 minutes, or until liquid is all absorbed.
Serve with slices of lean pork roast, or dice the meat and stir in to make a casserole.
As far as calories* go, the entire rice mixture- not including the meat- contains right around 850 calories. So, each of four portions will have roughly 215, or each of six portions will have about 140. Lean meats generally have between 30 and 45 calories per ounce. So you can figure out how much of the rice and how many ounces of meat your calorie budget allows for. 1/6 of the rice + 4 ounces of a pork tenderloin roast will run you about 270 calories; 1/4 of the rice + 4 ounces of that pork will run you around 340 calories. To figure this kind of information on your own, go here, where nutritional information is offered for just about any food you can think of.
*To see my policy on nutritional information, go here and scroll down.
This is what Allie and I had for breakfast today! I mean, who doesn’t like French anything?! It never occurred to me that I could make such a thing and stay within my Weight Watchers program, but here it is, and it’s delicious!
I used non-stick cooking spray, challah bread, egg substitute, and milk- the only thing that’s missing from a traditional recipe is butter and the egg yolk, but both of those things are already in the bread, so this recipe pretty much has it all, after all. This is great as a complete meal- there’s protein in the egg substitute, milk, and bread, and the calories* for my plate came out to be just a smidge under 300, not including my sugar free syrup- not bad for a decadent dish like French Toast, huh?
*To see my policy on nutritional information, go here and scroll down.
To get started, figure out the serving size you want, based on the info in the nutritional label. I bought a day-old loaf for just $2, so I had to play with pairing up different slices and pieces to get the serving size where I wanted- about 64 grams or 2 ounces.
This always involves weighing for me- that only way I can know for sure that I have precisely the serving size I’ve figured calories, or PPV for Weight Watchers in my case, for.
Day-old bread is best as it soaks up the liquid, which is what makes French Toast so luscious, much better than fresh bread does.
So, once you get your slices all figured out, set them aside on a plate, and make a custard* in a wide, flat bottomed bowl or casserole, that’s big enough to accommodate all of your slices at the same time. Combine the egg substitute, milk, and a splash of vanilla extract, then whisk to combine. Place all of your slices of bread in the custard, flip them quickly, then let them sit and soak while you get a large non-stick skillet heated, over medium heat.
* I know, I know, technically custard is a cooked mixture of milk or cream and egg yolk, so the mixture I’ve used is not a true custard. But it’s going to act a lot like one, so be sure to see my notes on cooking technique further down. (Thank you, wikipedia, for great info on this subject!)
So, at this point I feel totally justified in making an absolutely shameless confession and recommendation. I. LOVE. kitchen. toys.!!!!! And if you do too, you should definitely get one of these things- it’s one of the coolest gadgets ever! Oh, and, thank you Alton Brown- your Good Eats show is the rocket fuel for this obsession! BTW- if I could figure out any more ways to highlight “love” in the above sentence, I would- but alas, so far this is the best I know how to do with my blogging software. I’m still learning, so please excuse the lack of expressed enthusiasm.
I was so proud when I showed this thing to my husband- he’s an engineer and he has all kinds of super-dee-duper high tech-y whatchamacallit widgety-esque thingamabobs, and even he was impressed with my new toy! He immediately started playing with it, and I could see exactly where things were heading… so I promptly informed him thusly: This one would NOT, ever, under any circumstances, whatsoever, be used for anything other than food prep. At which point, he had me get right on the web and order another one for him, just like mine. This ensured I would never have to contemplate what I’d have to do to him when, not if, my tool ended up in his computer bag. Crisis averted.
Anyway, in order to make sure your skillet is at the perfect temp, 350F in this case, you just point this thing at the surface of the skillet, squeeze and hold the trigger, and it shows exactly how hot things are getting. Now, how cool is that? Ha ha, hot… cool…. very punny. Make sure you move it around a bit- the skillet will actually be different temps in different places.
See- here is where you can tell exactly what temp the surface is. You can even change it to Celsius if you like, and there are some other buttons, but I haven’t tried them. I don’t know exactly what they do, and for all I know, the whole thing might self-destruct, which would make me really sad. No, I do not still have the instructions. I generally throw them out with the box, as they tend to squelch my creativity. Insert my husband shaking his head. There’s a reason I didn’t major in engineering, and he did. God surely has a sense of humor! : ]
Once you get through playing, or, if you don’t have one of these nifty gadgets, when a few drops of water sizzle and dance when sprinkled on the surface, you’re ready to start cooking! Spray the skillet with non-stick spray. By this time, your bread will be fairly soaked and fragile, so carefully lift each slice out of the bowl and place it gently in the skillet.
I use a fork, or a slotted spatula, sliding it under the bread, and lifting, to prevent the bread from breaking apart. Once it’s nicely browned on the first side, flip it over, and spray the second side with cooking spray.
Now, here is the one and only tricky thing about making French Toast- you must avoid letting the skillet get too hot! You really have to allow all of the custard (that’s hanging out, all throughout your bread) to cook all the way through, so it becomes firm.
If the skillet is too hot, the outside will brown quickly, but the middle won’t be cooked. When this happens, the custard doesn’t firm up- you know, like cooked custard will when it gets hot enough! Instead, the uncooked custard will just be runny, exactly like it was in the bowl, and your toast will be soggy, so it’ll collapse. Which is not so yummy. Or pretty. As you can see in my pic above, where I’ve sacrificed one poor little slice- on purpose, of course- to show you what happens when you get in a hurry.
Once both sides are nicely done, and the middle is cooked all the way through, remove to a plate, and garnish with whatever you like- I used sugar free syrup today, but I often use (in very small amounts) all-fruit spreads such as Polaner, some honey, or fresh fruit such as sliced peaches or strawberries. And maybe a dollop of fat free whipped cream or Cool Whip. Sprinkles if it’s a special occasion. Whatever you like.
So, there ya go! Who knew you could lose weight and eatFrench cooking? Now we all do- ENJOY!
As always, I don’t accept compensation in exchange for favorably reviewing or recommending any product or company- you can see my policy on this here.
Combine the egg substitute, milk, and extract in a wide flat-bottomed bowl, large enough to accommodate all of the bread slices at one time. Whisk to combine well.
Place the bread in the custard mixture, then flip them quickly. Allow them to sit and soak up the custard.
Heat a large non-stick skillet to about 350F or until water drops sprinkled on the surface sizzle and dance.
Spray skillet with non-stick cooking spray.
Carefully lift the bread out of the bowl and gently place in the skillet to brown on the first side. Making sure the skillet doesn't get too hot.
Spray exposed side of slices with cooking spray.
Turn the slices and brown well on the second side. Be sure the middle of each slice gets cooked all the way through, to avoid the center of slices collapsing. (See notes and pic above.)
When toast is browned and cooked through, remove to a plate and garnish as desired.
* If you don't have commercially prepared egg substitute, which is pasteurized, you can use egg whites, beaten until they're runny. Unless these come from pasteurized eggs, they must be cooked thoroughly because raw eggs may contain Salmonella enteritidis bacteria, a dangerous food-borne illness. Again, thank you, wikipedia, for the info!
Today was the first day I’ve been able to get to the gym in two weeks. Now, I’m not going to lie- the first week, I wasn’t totally devastated when snow and ice storms pretty much shut down my sweet little town… it was kinda nice to be hunkered down, all cozy-ed up with family, and forced (Uh-huh! Was too!) to watch Downton Abbey and drink insane amounts of hot coffee, all snuggled up under my electric throw. I know, right?! It’s a rough life!
By today, though, I was dying to get out and go to H2O class! Sadly, taking that kind of a hiatus from exercising has consequences- class was brutal. So I went shopping. And by the time I got home, I was HUNGRY!! I was going to need lunch to be fast, not so high in calories as to undo all the hard work, and satisfying.
BTW- I love exercising in the pool- if you’re looking for a different kind of workout, this offers a lot- it’s virtually impossible to injure yourself, there is absolutely no sweat involved, it combines cardio and strength, you can burn upwards of 600 calories in an hour, (here’s a link for a page on the Mayo Clinic’s website that lists calories burned during various kinds of exercise) and it’s really fun!
Anyway, back to lunch- I doubt anyone will be shocked to learn that in a situation like this, I fell back on some of my favorite comfort foods, and I have to say, this little concoction fit all of my criteria perfectly!! It’s so simple- I’ve made it several times lately, and it’ll probably be added to my arsenal of super-duper weapons in my battle to keep losing weight.
So, here’s the trick- I always keep some Trader Joe’s* frozen mashed potatoes on hand, (see the pic above- they come in perfectly formed little pieces so you know exactly how many calories you’re putting into any dish) I usually have a few slices of low fat ham- from a past dinner or deli slices, in my fridge or freezer, and I’ve always got some Cabot* 75% reduced fat grated cheddar cheese on hand- see the pic below- love this cheese! You can also buy very low fat cubes of ham in the packaged deli section of the grocery store- great for this kind of thing, as well as Hawaiian pizza!
*I don’t receive compensation to favorably review or recommend any product or company- you can see my policy on this here.
So, to put this all together in just a few minutes, put however many mashed potato pieces in the bottom of a casserole, sprayed with non-stick cooking spray.
Add your ham, cubed up, if you like- that’s how I like mine.
Now, just cover your casserole, and microwave for a 2 or 3 minutes, just enough to melt the potatoes, and heat everything up. Take the top off, sprinkle the cheese over the top, and cover again, then give it a minute or two in the microwave again, just until the cheese is melted.
You can eat it just like this if you like, or put it in the oven for a few minutes and let the cheese brown up just a bit. You can eat it just like this if you like, or put it in the oven for a few minutes and let the cheese brown up just a bit.
OR…….. you could use a great big blow torch kind of a thing to brown up the potatoes and ham!! How much fun would that be!? Seriously- Alton Brown shows you what to buy, and how to use one here. I’ve shown my husband several of these things in home improvement stores, but oddly, he hasn’t gotten me one yet… maybe he’s just waiting to get me one for Christmas this year!
So, there ya go- a hot and comforting lunch, ready in just around 10 or 15 minutes, tops, for roughly 320 calories.* (Or just a few more if you sneak a dollop of low fat or fat free sour cream on top… all of these things just go together!)
* This is a very rough estimate of calories- the calories in your dish will depend on the amounts and brand of ingredients you use. Consult package information for exact calorie information. *To see my policy on nutritional information, go here and scroll down.
Add cubed ham and sprinkle cheese over top, cover casserole, and microwave 1 or 2 more minutes, just until everything is hot.
Optional: Place casserole, uncovered, under broiler or toaster oven, and allow to brown for 3 to 5 minutes.
Optional: Garnish with fat free or reduced fat sour cream.
If you don't have access to a Trader Joe's store, you could always just do a double batch of mashed potatoes, the next time you make them; then use a small ice cream type of scoop to portion them out onto a cookie sheet, and freeze them. Once they're solid, just put them in a seal-able type bag, squeeze as much air as possible out, and keep them in your freezer for quick prep dishes like this one.