BratBurgers

bratburger

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!

 

 

burger press
As always, this is not an affiliate link and I’m not receiving any financial compensation, but if you want one of these for your very own, you can click here and buy one.

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!

 

 

 

burgerpress
Here’s the underside- see, nothing underneath where you put the meat and then have to get it back out without messing up the patty! No muss, no fuss!

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?!

 

 

vacuum sealer
This is my vacuum sealer- best $150 I’ve ever spent, in terms of keeping meat in an organized way that prevents freezer burn so it goes to waste.

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.

 

 

 

 

sealed meat
I write the weight, and date sealed on each item so I’ll know how many it will serve (3 to 5 oz. of meat per person) and how long it’s been in the frozen tundra.

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 here to find “Bratwurst Sausage Seasoning.”

 

BratBurgers
Print Recipe
Servings
12
Servings
12
BratBurgers
Print Recipe
Servings
12
Servings
12
Ingredients
Servings:
Instructions
  1. Place the applesauce in a fine mesh strainer and allow it to drain while preparing the rest of the ingredients.
  2. Peel and dice the onion, then saute until golden brown.
  3. Place the ground turkey, strained applesauce , sauteed onion, and seasoning in a large bowl. Using a potato masher, mix the ingredients well.
  4. Divide the mixture into 4 to 5 oz portions, and form into patties. See pics and instructions above for using my burger press.
  5. Grill or pan fry patties until thoroughly cooked; the internal temperature must reach 165F to ensure all bacteria is killed.
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Fiesta On The Bayou

 

fiesta plate

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.

 

tomatillo2
Tomatillos are little green tomato-y looking things. They’re covered in the green or brownish paper you can see here, so you need to peel this skin away to reveal the gorgeous little fruit.

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.

 

 

 

 

tom roast
Here they are, roasted. I know, they don’t look like much but these little things are amazing!!

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.

 

poblano
These are poblano peppers- aren’t they beautiful? I love the dark green skin!

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.

 

 

chicken casserole

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.

 

frontera
This is the Fontera sauce- I found it at a SuperTarget grocery store, in the international / Mexican section. For a long time I never saw Frontera products anywhere else, but recently it’s been showing up at my Wal-Mart.

While the veggies are sautéing, combine the seasonings, tomatoes, broth, and Frontera* sauce in a bowl, and stir to combine.

 

 

 

 

TJs corn
This stuff is great, AND nothing that has the Trader Joe’s name is GMO!

 

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.

 

zima

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.

 

fiesta

 

So, there ya go, my take on fusion, the very best of two delicious worlds, so…

Let the

Fiesta on the Bayou

begin!!

 

 

 

 

 

Fiesta On The Bayou
Print Recipe
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.
Servings
8
Servings
8
Fiesta On The Bayou
Print Recipe
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.
Servings
8
Servings
8
Ingredients
Servings:
Instructions
  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. Distribute the rice in the casserole, evenly, over the chicken.
  4. 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.
  5. While veggies are cooking, combine crushed tomatoes, Frontera sauce, stock, and seasonings in a bowl and set aside.
  6. When the veggies are done, scatter them evenly in the casserole.
  7. Gently pour the stock mixture over the veggies in the casserole, being careful not to disturb ingredients.
  8. Cover casserole with foil and place in the oven for 45 to 60 minutes, or until rice is done.
  9. While casserole cooks, wash and halve the cherry or grape tomatoes.
  10. 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.
  11. Serve piping hot, with garnishes if desired.
Recipe Notes

*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.

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Apple Rice & Pork Roast Dinner

 

dinner
You can serve the pork sliced, on the side, or do what I did here, and make it into a casserole.

 

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!

onions
See- very thin slices! This speeds up the caramelization process. And, you need lots of onion as it shrinks down dramatically as it caramelizes. Think of it as a reduction- as the onions lose their water, and the sugar becomes concentrated, the volume decreases, but the flavor explodes.

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.

 

apple peeler
I’ve had several different brands- these things range in cost from about $11 to $50. The pic here is one I found at Wal-Mart, on clearance, for $11!  None of mine have lasted more than a year or two, so I just count on having to get a new one every so often. This one is my back up- I’ll never be without that again, as getting in the middle of doing 10 to 20 pounds of apples from the farmers’ market, and having one break, is not fun.

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.

casserole

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!

 

 

Apple Rice & Pork Roast
Print Recipe
Servings
6
Servings
6
Apple Rice & Pork Roast
Print Recipe
Servings
6
Servings
6
Ingredients
Servings:
Instructions
  1. Clean and peel the onion, slice very thinly, and caramelize in a large non-stick skillet, along with the oil, salt, and baking soda.
  2. Peel, core, and slice the apples.
  3. Spray a casserole with non-stick cooking spray, then add all ingredients and stir to combine well.
  4. Microwave for 15 to 20 minutes, or until liquid is all absorbed.
  5. Serve with slices of lean pork roast, or dice the meat and stir in to make a casserole.
Recipe Notes

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.

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The French (Toast) Connection

French Toast

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.

 

Egg Knot Rolls
Serving size and calorie info is easier if you buy egg knot rolls like these. Just cut each one into tiny little slices- about 4 per roll, which makes for a really cute presentation. This would be perfect for a ladies’ brunchy kind of an event.

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!)

 

infrared therm gun
This is my infrared thermometer. It just makes me feel so smart, just to say I have an infrared anything. Not that I actually know exactly what infrared means, but no one really needs to know that, right?!

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.

 

red dot
The laser dot shows exactly where the reading is being taken. Apparently, the piece of fabric I tested was not running a fever.

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.

 

 

laser reading

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!  : ]

 

frenchtoast
Here is my breakfast, one side all toasty and crispy, and the other side is about to be.  So good!

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.

 

exampleofwhatnottodo
See the difference?  The slice on the left didn’t get cooked all the way through, so it collapsed. Epic fail.  OK, not epic- the world will not end.  But it’s really disappointing! The slice on the right cooked through, the egg and milk firmed up, and “IT’S SO FLUFFY!”  I know, shameless Despicable Me reference… but it works here I think.

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 eat French 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.

 

 

The French (Toast) Connection
Print Recipe
Servings Prep Time
1 5 min
Cook Time
10 min
Servings Prep Time
1 5 min
Cook Time
10 min
The French (Toast) Connection
Print Recipe
Servings Prep Time
1 5 min
Cook Time
10 min
Servings Prep Time
1 5 min
Cook Time
10 min
Instructions
  1. Slice bread and set aside on a plate.
  2. 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.
  3. Place the bread in the custard mixture, then flip them quickly. Allow them to sit and soak up the custard.
  4. Heat a large non-stick skillet to about 350F or until water drops sprinkled on the surface sizzle and dance.
  5. Spray skillet with non-stick cooking spray.
  6. 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.
  7. Spray exposed side of slices with cooking spray.
  8. 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.)
  9. When toast is browned and cooked through, remove to a plate and garnish as desired.
Recipe Notes

* 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!

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Potato, Ham, & Cheese Lunch

lunch
Oh, so good! How can you go wrong with mashed potatoes, ham, and cheese? An ultimate comfort food combo!

 

 

 

DSC08795
I love snow! This one started around 11 pm, and I stayed up until around 2 or 3 am watching- I simply couldn’t look away. It was that really dry and fluffy kind, and it looked as if God was merrily releasing a zillion buckets of glitter, just to make everything sparkle and shine for a few hours.

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!

 

 

H2O fitness
This is my workout outfit- a girl’s gotta have something pretty for extra motivation!

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.

 

TJ's mashed potatoes
These already have some butter and seasonings in them! Just microwave, bake, or make them into little potato pancakes!
tjs potatoes facts
Today I used 12 pieces, but if I wanted a lighter dish I’d use 8.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

 

Easy Peasy Pimento Cheesy cheddar
The Cabot reduced fat cheeses are absolutely fabulous!! They don’t taste or melt like other “diet” cheeses I’ve had. They come in 50% and 75% reduced fat versions.

Easy Peasy Pimento Cheesy Cabot cheese

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

DSC08842
This is my mini, 1 serving casserole- I got from our local Goodwill store for less than a dollar, including the top- can’t beat that deal!

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.

 

cheese ham potatoes

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.

 

Potato, Ham, & Cheese Lunch Concoction
Print Recipe
Servings Prep Time
1 5 min
Cook Time
5 min
Servings Prep Time
1 5 min
Cook Time
5 min
Potato, Ham, & Cheese Lunch Concoction
Print Recipe
Servings Prep Time
1 5 min
Cook Time
5 min
Servings Prep Time
1 5 min
Cook Time
5 min
Ingredients
Servings:
Instructions
  1. Spray a mini casserole with non stick spray.
  2. Place potato pieces in casserole and cover.
  3. Microwave 2 to 3 minutes, just until thawed.
  4. Add cubed ham and sprinkle cheese over top, cover casserole, and microwave 1 or 2 more minutes, just until everything is hot.
  5. Optional: Place casserole, uncovered, under broiler or toaster oven, and allow to brown for 3 to 5 minutes.
  6. Optional: Garnish with fat free or reduced fat sour cream.
Recipe Notes

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.

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Potato Cakes, Bacon & Eggs

After a long winter’s night, complete with various forms of  frozen precipitation, I treated myself to this very hearty, oh, so warm and cozy breakfast- ready in just around 15 to 20 minutes.

brunch - Copy

Best part- my plate comes in at right around 335 calories, and has 27 grams of protein.   If you want yours to be just a bit less hearty, you can make less potato cakes and bring the cals down to 290, but still have 26 grams of protein, or substitute something like Egg Beaters* for the whole eggs.  You can customize this an lots of ways!

 

So, here’s what you need:

tky bacon facts turkey bacon

BACON!  This is a store brand I use-  some of the best turkey bacon I’ve ever found.*

 

 

 

tjs potatoes facts TJ's mashed potatoes

And here’s the quickest way ever to make potato cakes! Little frozen pellets, perfectly formed for this recipe, from Trader Joe’s.*

 

They’ve already got milk, a little bit of butter, and seasoning, so they’re ready to go, but I added a little salt at the table.

 

eggs

And, finally, you’ll need a few eggs- I use these- their large eggs have 60 calories, in comparison to average large eggs, which have 70.*  See this comparison here.*  (Not an affiliate link.)

 

Here’s my non-stick pan, with my bacon, which is nearly ready.  I’ve turned the heat down to medium low, placed the potato pellets in the pan, and let them sit for a few minutes (4 to 5) until they thaw.

pan
This is what the Trader Joe’s Mashed Potatoes look like when they come out of the package. They are fabulous as mashed potatoes, but I think I like them even better this way. And the pellet shape makes it so easy to make them into tiny little pancakes!

They’ll begin to brown and form a crust on the bottom so you can turn them, once thawed. I did mine right in the same pan I used to cook the bacon, and once some slices were done, I put the potato pellets right in, so there was still a tiny amount of oil- and all of the crispy crunchy yummy stuff leftover from cooking the bacon!

If you’re doing this without cooking bacon first, though, spray the pan lightly with non-stick spray- potatoes are sticky so they need a little!

 

DSC08705

While the potatoes are browning / thawing, beat two eggs and add a few twists of freshly cracked pepper.  Don’t add salt yet- I found out the nasty way that they turn a really weird color and change consistency.  No pics, (you’re welcome) just take my word.  Add salt at the table!

 

turned

 

Once the pellets are thawed, and slightly browned on the bottom, turn them, gently– remember, it is early and if no one’s had coffee, there could be some temperamentalism, so be careful to make sure they don’t break or crumble.

 

 

 

smashed2

 

 

Now, with a fork, begin to smash the pellet into a flat little pancake.

 

 

 

And, here they are, all crispy on the outside, warm and velvety smooth on the inside.  Perfect little potato cakes- all of the YUM, very little work.  THANK YOU Trader Joe’s!  Plate your bacon and cakes, and you’re almost done.

perfect cakes

All that’s left to do is scramble your eggs, so put them in the still-warm pan from the bacon and potato cakes, scramble the way you like, and plate.  Breakfast is ready!

 

So, there ya go- a really hearty breakfast, for right around 300 (+/-) calories, in just about 15 to 20 minutes, all done in 1 skillet.  You’ll be ready to go play in the…  ice…  or shovel / clear it.  Or whatever you’re going to do, even if it’s just sit by the fire and read a good book.

 

 

 

Potato Cakes, Bacon & Eggs
Print Recipe
Servings
1
Cook Time
15-20 minutes
Servings
1
Cook Time
15-20 minutes
Potato Cakes, Bacon & Eggs
Print Recipe
Servings
1
Cook Time
15-20 minutes
Servings
1
Cook Time
15-20 minutes
Ingredients
Servings:
Instructions
  1. Put the bacon in a non-stick skillet and cook over medium to medium high heat.
  2. When the bacon is almost done, turn the heat down to medium or medium low and add put the potato pellets in the skillet.
  3. Allow the pellets to thaw for 4 to 5 minutes.
  4. Scramble the eggs, add freshly cracked pepper, but don't add any salt.
  5. When pellets have thawed and browned slightly, carefully turn the pellets.
  6. Using a fork, carefully smash the pellets into flat little cakes.
  7. Continue to cook, turning as necessary, to brown as you like. Plate the bacon and cakes.
  8. Scramble the eggs, plate them with the bacon and cakes, and enjoy!
Recipe Notes

The store brand bacon I've used is very similar to Applegate's,* which I like, but can't always find.  Any turkey bacon can be cooked ahead of time and kept in the fridge or freezer for super fast breakfasts.  I just put a few slices on a paper plate, wrapped in a paper towel, and microwave for 10 to 30 seconds.

Although I haven't tried freezing the potato cakes yet, (you know I'll be testing the theory very soon!) I'm guessing they can also be prepared ahead, and be ready in a flash in the microwave or toaster oven.  : )

To see my policy on nutritional information, go here and scroll down.

If you've never been to a Trader Joe's, I highly recommend checking it out.  They have tons of "guilt free" items and are extremely helpful in answering questions so you can find exactly what you need.  You can look here to find the nearest one.  (Not an affiliate link.)

*I don't receive compensation to favorably review or recommend any product or company- you can see my policy on this here.

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Easy Peasy Pimento Cheesy

 

Easy Peasy Pimento Cheesy Pinwheels
Take these with you to a party and you’ll be guaranteed to have something there that offers guilt-free munching for everyone!!

 

 

Here’s what I had for lunch today- Easy Peasy Pimento Cheesy Pinwheels- they’re so pretty and just perfect for lunch, or as a fun snack or appetizer.  I used 2/3 of one of Joseph’s flatbreads (90 calories each, so 2/3 was just 60) to make the pinwheels.  Keep scrolling down and I’ll show you how I did it!

 

 

 

 

Easy Peasy Pimento Cheesy
Here, I used a Joseph’s Pita loaf, just 60 calories!

And this was my lunch Saturday- the pimento cheese has just a bit of heat to it, which is perfectly contrasted with the cool ranch dressing for my chilled veggies.

 

 

Pimento Cheese is one thing I sure didn’t think I could ever make in a healthy and delicious way- what with high fat ingredients like cheese and mayo, I figured I’d have to give it up, for sure.  But then some of my very favorite products came to my rescue!  With their help, this version of my childhood favorite is just 45 calories per ounce!

So, let me introduce you to two of my Superheroes:

DSC08222
This cheddar has the best flavor of any reduced fat version I’ve ever had! It’s truly sharp- amazing.*

First, there’s sharp cheddar cheese.  I grew up loving cheese- I came by it honestly.

 

 

 

*I do not receive compensation to favorably review or recommend any product- you can see my policy on this here.

I remember sitting at the table, watching my grandfather cut ridiculously thick slices (hunks would be a more accurate term) and chow on them, one after the other.

 I learned a lot from him… although I don’t know that I’d like Limburger cheese as much as I’m told he did.

 

cheese nit info
Just 60 cals/ounce!! Regular cheddar has about twice that many.

Anyway, given my love for sharp cheddar cheese, I don’t suffer tasteless waxy low fat or fat free cheeses well.

 

Although this isn’t my grandfather’s cheese, (his had roughly twice the calories of this one) it’s really good, and I use it all the time!

 

 

Easy Peasy Pimento Cheesy
The cream cheese this spread creamy!

Then, there’s cream cheese.  (Are you beginning to detect a pattern here?!) Ahhhhhh, how I love cream cheese.  But not the fat free stuff!!

 

 

And I’m not all that happy with the level of fat and calories in the standard reduced fat kind either.

 

greek cream cheese
This cream cheese is lower in fat than Neufchâtel, which is only 30% less fat, but the Greek is higher in protein- a win-win!

So, this is a great compromise! (Sometimes, if I want an even deeper reduction in calories, I mix Greek and fat free, half and half.)

 

 

So, to make this stuff, it really takes no time at all!!  Oh, if you’re reading this ahead, and can remember, put the cream cheese out on the counter for about an hour or so, to soften up.  If not, or you forget, don’t worry, I’ll tell you how to get around it.  (Because not reading the recipe ahead of time and/or forgetting what I’m supposed to do is quite a regular occurrence for me, so I know a lot of get-arounds!)

Easy Peasy Pimento Cheesy
Aren’t they beautiful?

 

First, get your bottles of pimentos and drain them like the pic over there, to the left.

 

 

 

 

 

Easy Peasy Pimento Cheesy
Grated cheddar- a whole bowl of YUM!

Next, grate up all of the cheddar- and try not to let anyone walk by and steal pinches of it before it gets into the salad, like some people in my house have been known to do!  You can grate it coarsely, as in the pic above, or more finely- just depends on how you like it to look.

 

 

Easy Peasy Pimento Cheesy
These things are just about the best thing that’s happened to making cooking easier!

Now, for measuring the mayo(s).  This was definitely not may favorite chore until I found the most amazing measuring “cup” ever!  This thing allows me to measure sticky and messy things like mayo, honey, peanut butter, etc., not make a huge mess, and get all of it in the recipe, not leaving a bunch of it all over the the measuring cup.  How cool is that?!

 

 

 

DSC08250
I have 2- here’s a closer pic of my other one so you can see better!

You simply adjust the liner / plunger part with the sleeve, to the amount you need, fill up the space with your ingredient, level it off, then turn it upside down (over your bowl!) and push- it ALL comes off the sides of the sleeve, and all you have to do is scrape the little bit that might be stuck to the top (or bottom- however you look at it) of the liner/plunger. Life changing would be a gross understatement!

 

Easy Peasy Pimento Cheesy
If you forgot to put the cream cheese out to soften, put it on a microwave safe plate and microwave on about 30% power for just a minute or two. You don’t want to melt it- just soften it enough to work with.

 

OK, so enough playing with toys…  Put the cream cheese, mayo(s), pimentos, seasonings, and Worcestershire sauce in the bowl with the cheese.

 

 

 

 

Easy Peasy Pimento Cheesy

 

And here’s what you’ve got- Easy Peasy Pimento Cheesy!!

Who knew you could have pimento cheese for right around 45 calories* per ounce?

 

 

 

To make the pinwheels:

DSC08366

Just spread pimento cheese evenly all over about 1/3 of a Joseph’s flatbread, leaving a little space along one of the long edges so it won’t ooze out when you roll it up.

 

 

DSC08367

 

 

 

 

 

 

Use a really sharp serrated knife like this one to cut even slices.

 

 

DSC08382

 

 

They’ll look like these- even better if you roll them really tight in the middle!  I need practice… clearly.

 

 

 

 

 

 

DSC08387 - Copy

Put your pinwheels on a pretty plate, along with some apple slices, and add your finishing touches.  You have my permission to use all of the colors of paper umbrellas you want to!

Enjoy!!

 

 

Easy Peasy Pimento Cheesy
Print Recipe
Servings Prep Time
30 ounces 20 minutes
Servings Prep Time
30 ounces 20 minutes
Easy Peasy Pimento Cheesy
Print Recipe
Servings Prep Time
30 ounces 20 minutes
Servings Prep Time
30 ounces 20 minutes
Ingredients
Servings: ounces
Instructions
  1. Grate the cheddar and place in a bowl.
  2. Add the rest of the ingredients and stir to combine thoroughly.
  3. Serve on pita bread or spread on flatbread and roll, then slice to make pinwheels.
Recipe Notes

If you can't find Joseph's pitas or flatbreads, you can buy them here.  (Not an affiliate link)

*To see my policy on nutritional information, go here and scroll down.

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Pizza Times Two

So here’s what I’m having for lunch:

TWO pizzas!

 

DSC08067

The best part?  The whole kit and caboodle, depending on options, is right around 300 calories- not bad for TWO pizzas, right?

 

 

 

Here’s how I do it:

For the crusts, I use pitas- here are some thoughts on what to use and why: You’ve got to use something that’s fairly low in calories, yet sturdy enough to hold up to your topping.  Some weight conscious recipes call for tortillas;  all I have to say to all of the tortillas out there is, “you can’t handle the stuff!”  (Sorry- couldn’t resist!)  I don’t know about you, but I’m going to need to put a whole lot more on my pizza than any tortilla I’ve ever seen can handle.

Pitas are another option- unless you want to make your crust from scratch, of course, but if might make for a late lunch…    So when I started working on making pizzas I could eat and stay within my program, I looked at lots and lots of different pitas.  Most of them were out of the running right off the bat  because the calorie count was too high…  so that led me to the ones I love and use all the time- my very favorite, hands down- the ones made by Joseph’s Bakery.*

*I do not receive compensation to favorably review or recommend any product- you can see my policy on this here.

 

DSC08212

Joseph’s actually makes lots of different things, and I’ll discuss some of them in future posts, but for this recipe I use their regular size pitas- either the Heart Friendly Oat Bran and Stone Ground Whole Wheat or their Flax, Oat Bran, and Whole Wheat variety- both are great.

Don’t let the names of all of those whole-this-and-that ingredients in the names throw you- they are very healthy, but definitely have the very best balance of non-wholiness (yes, that’s a new word!) taste and healthy wholesomeness I’ve ever found- not to mention the regular size loaves have just 60 calories each!!  It doesn’t hurt one bit that they’re nice and thin, which makes for a perfectly crispy and crunchy pizza crust!  If you can’t find them, you can get them here.  (This is not an affiliate link.)

So, now that the issue of crust is settled, spray the pitas lightly with non stick cooking spray.  As much as I love these sprays, I need to tattle on them just a bit- you have to be careful- the nutritional labels say there are no calories, but there are!!  Just look at the ingredient list and you’ll see what I mean.  So, in order to keep the calories to a minimum, you must learn to spray very lightly and quickly…  and aim well, or you end up with the stuff everywhere except where you want it.  It’s a learned skill…  took me awhile… hopefully you’ll catch on quicker.

Or you can use a pastry brush- natural bristle is the only way to go here because it’s easier to get a really light coating of oil.  (See mine below) Those synthetic ones are great for some things, but they’ll deposit way too much oil for our purposes here- they’re better for spreading things like BBQ sauce.   Ooooh,  yummy…  BBQ sauce…  I need to work on developing something with BBQ sauce?!  (Sorry- distraction happens a lot when I’m thinking about recipes!)

DSC08216
Don’t judge me- it’s seen lots of use, and looks really beat up, but it works like a charm!

So just pour the tiniest amount- like a teaspoon or less- of extra virgin olive oil into a little bowl and dip the brush in, getting just a little bit on the end, and brush the entire surface of the crust, concentrating on the edges.

 

DSC08042

 Next, spread some pizza sauce around, leaving the edges bare- don’t worry too much, it doesn’t have to look perfect to taste fabulous!  At this stage I sprinkle oregano- fresh if you can get your hands on it- all over the whole thing.  And maybe some basil too!

 

 

Just so ya know, here’s what I look for in sauces.  First, if you don’t look at nutritional labels, you’ll need to know they differ significantly, not just in taste, but in fat and calorie content!  I’ve tried a lot of them over the years, and what I look for is one that’s not too sweet, not too watery, and as low in possible in fat and/or calories.  (I mean, seriously, if I’m going to eat fat, it’s not going to be in a tomato sauce!  It’s going to be some form of butter- like in and/or on a baked something…  probably cookies….  or cookie dough…   (insert dreamy expression and wistful sigh here….)  Anyway, back to pizza!  With all of that in mind, the best sauce I’ve found is Ragu Pizza Sauce.  Not Pizza QUICK Sauce, because it has 50% more fat in it, and therefore 50% more calories.  So, not to beat a dead horse here, but I look at it this way- if I think of my daily allowance of calories (or PPV for Weight Watchers members) as a budget, this is not where I want to allocate any more of mine than I have to.

 

DSC08047

Onto making so we can EAT!!

Next, I put the cheese on, and I use Trader Joe’s Lite Shredded Mozzarella because it has the lowest calories per ounce I’ve been able to find (45) but it melts well and tastes fantastic!

 

DSC08049And the pepperoni!

You might notice I diced mine- when I’m working with ingredients with tons of flavor, like this one does, but I can’t use them indiscriminately, I spread what I do have out as much as possible- I like to get a smidge in every bite!

 

DSC08059

Finally, I like a nice dusting of Pecorino  Romano cheese to give the whole thing a really nice finish of Italian flavor.  Instead of sprinkling it from the measuring spoon, I put it in my hand and distribute by pinches- much less chance of accidentally getting it all in one place.  Your pizza won’t be nearly as pretty if you do, then try to fix it. Trust me.

 

So, now that you’ve built your Italian beauty, put it in the oven and let it get all melty… and toasty…. and nicely tanned!  If you’re using a toaster oven, set the temperature about 25 to 50 degrees lower than if you’re using a big oven.

And, a word to the wise… keep your eye on it.  I’ve heard stories (not that I’d know myself…) that it’s ridiculously easy to set these things on fire.  Such an event can result in a panicky phone call from kids to a mom who is out shopping, resulting in a mom having heart palpitations brought on by a massive panic attack, followed by near fainting when the kids blow the fire out, then promptly hang up rather than passing this information along.  I’ve even heard of a family who’s had three of these ovens (not to mention very nearly a brand spanking new house) destroyed when the things caught on fire.  Don’t let this happen to you.  Keep your eye on it, especially when running it at high temps!

 

DSC08064

 

When it comes out, if you like oregano as much as I do, sprinkle a little more on there, just for fun, and let the PIZZA PARTY begin!

 

 

mozzarella

Here’s a pic of the mozzarella package- just so you know what you’re looking for.  It’s in with the other sliced and shredded cheeses at Trader Joe’s.  I love this stuff- it’s half the calories of most “light” mozzarella, but looks, tastes, and melts almost like the regular stuff!

 

 

 

Pizza Times Two
Print Recipe
Servings Prep Time
1 10 minutes
Cook Time
10 minutes
Servings Prep Time
1 10 minutes
Cook Time
10 minutes
Pizza Times Two
Print Recipe
Servings Prep Time
1 10 minutes
Cook Time
10 minutes
Servings Prep Time
1 10 minutes
Cook Time
10 minutes
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 425F
  2. Spray the pitas very lightly with non stick cooking spray.
  3. Split all ingredients equally between the two pitas.
  4. Spread pizza sauce on pitas, leaving 1/2 to 3/4 inch around edges clear.
  5. Sprinkle oregano and basil, as desired, over the sauce.
  6. Spread the mozzarella evenly over the sauce.
  7. Spread the pepperoni evenly over the cheese.
  8. Sprinkle Romano cheese evenly over the pepperoni.
  9. Bake for 10 minutes or until nicely browned.
  10. Sprinkle oregano over pizza if desired.
Recipe Notes

To see my policy on nutritional information, go here and scroll down.

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