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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
BACON! This is a store brand I use- some of the best turkey bacon I’ve ever found.*
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.
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.
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!
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!
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.
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.
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.
Put the bacon in a non-stick skillet and cook over medium to medium high heat.
When the bacon is almost done, turn the heat down to medium or medium low and add put the potato pellets in the skillet.
Allow the pellets to thaw for 4 to 5 minutes.
Scramble the eggs, add freshly cracked pepper, but don't add any salt.
When pellets have thawed and browned slightly, carefully turn the pellets.
Using a fork, carefully smash the pellets into flat little cakes.
Continue to cook, turning as necessary, to brown as you like. Plate the bacon and cakes.
Scramble the eggs, plate them with the bacon and cakes, and enjoy!
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.
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!
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:
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.
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!
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.
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!)
First, get your bottles of pimentos and drain them like the pic over there, to the left.
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.
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?!
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!
OK, so enough playing with toys… Put the cream cheese, mayo(s), pimentos, seasonings, and Worcestershire sauce in the bowl with the cheese.
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:
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.
Use a really sharp serrated knife like this one to cut even slices.
They’ll look like these- even better if you roll them really tight in the middle! I need practice… clearly.
Put your pinwheels on a pretty plate, along with some apple slices, and add your finishing touches. You have my permission to use allofthecolorsof paperumbrellasyou want to!