Monday, July 29, 2013

Protein Pancakes

Everyone loves a great pancake. It is like an All-American breakfast food. If you asked me what I thought the top 3 breakfast dishes ordered in America were, I would say: eggs and bacon, biscuits and gravy and ofcourse a stack of pancakes. But after seeing the nutritional content of a stack of pancakes from IHOP I gave up on ordering the staple side-dish to my all-American breakfast. Just the short stack (3 pancakes) alone is a whopping 450 calories and 15 grams of fat. And if you get the regular stack (5 pancakes) you are talking over 750 calories and 22 grams of fat. So I set out on a mission to find or create the perfect, healthy breakfast pancake. I tried several different recipes until I finally hit the nail on the head. My husbands exact words were "When we have kids, they will hate restaurant pancakes after being raised with these" That is like hitting the jackpot in my kitchen. These amazing, healthy little gems are under 200 calories and only 2 grams of fat for 3 pancakes! They are dense and moist and packed with incredible (hidden) good-for-you ingredients. No egg yolk, no buttermilk, no butter, no oil.  Even if you aren't on a health-kick or the weight-loss-wagon you should give these a try. They are good for your heart and good for your soul.

1 1/2 cups rolled oats (not instant)
1 cup natural applesauce
1 cup egg whites (equal to 6 egg whites)
1/2 cup vanilla whey protein powder (I use Jay Robb)
1/2 cup non-fat vanilla Greek yogurt
1/2 Tbsp vanilla bean paste
cinnamon to taste (optional)

Put all ingredients in a blender. Blend on low and gradually move to medium then to high. Blend for 1 minute on high. Heat a skillet or griddle over medium heat. Spray with Pam cooking spray. Using a 1/4 cup measuring cup, pour the batter onto the skillet just like you would a regular pancake. It should spread to make a 4-5 inch wide pancake. Once it stops spreading you are ready to pour your next pancake. Only pour the number of pancakes you can fit in your skillet without them touching eachother. I can fit 3-4 in my large skillet. You will notice the trademark "batter bubbles" as you would see when cooking traditional pancakes. Flip the pancake when the underside has turned a golden brown. Continue making pancakes, remember to spray with Pam in between batches. This recipe should make 15 pancakes, serving 5 people. I spray my pancakes with I Can't Believe It's Not Butter spray and drizzle them with sugar free syrup or real maple syrup.

Extra! Extra!
Feel free to add blueberries, nuts or any other favorite mix-in to the batter (after blending ofcourse). You can also top your pancake stack with fresh fruit or nuts.

per serving (3 pancakes): 199 cals / 2g fat / 29g carbs / 16g protein


Friday, July 26, 2013

Mashed Potato Cakes

Let me just start this post by saying "Hash Browns+Mashed Potatoes+Baked Potato." Do I have your attention yet? I thought that might do it. This side dish brings it all together: The crispy outside of griddle hash browns, the smooth, creamy goodness of mashed potatoes and the cheese, bacon and sour cream toppings of a baked potato. It's just ridiculous. I don't really need to say much more than that so without further adieu....let me present Mashed Potato Cakes.

3-4 cups mashed potato
1 1/2 cups bread crumbs
2 Tbsp butter
1 egg
1 egg white
2/3 cup low fat cheddar cheese, shredded (I use Cabot 50% reduced fat)
1 tsp granulated garlic
1 tsp chive (dried or fresh)
2 Tbsp Hormel Real Bacon Bits
Reduced Fat sour cream
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper
3 Tbsp olive oil
extra bacon bits for garnishing

In a bowl combine potato, bread crumbs, butter, egg, egg white, cheese, garlic, chive, bacon bits, salt and pepper. Stir well. Make 10-12 patties (or cakes) out of the potato mixture using approximately 3 Tbsp of mixture per patty. You can lay the patties on wax paper while completing the patty making process. Heat a skillet over Med-High heat and drizzle 1 Tbsp of olive oil in the skillet. Place 4 patties in the skillet and pan-fry until it becomes a dark golden brown. Flip the patty and cook the other side. You will do 3 batches of 4, drizzling 1 Tbsp of olive oil between each batch. Once all the cakes are cooked, you can top with a dollop of sour cream and a sprinkle of bacon bits to garnish. Serve and enjoy!

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Fajita Chicken

I grew up traveling to Cabo San Lucas, MX. As you can tell by the numerous references to Cabo in songs by both me and my dad. Therefore, I love, love, love Mexican food and simply could not live without it. This year for Christmas I gathered family recipes to put together a private family collection cookbook to give out. Through that process I found that my Aunt Linda (the spaghetti and meatball Aunt that I recently posted about) has the most amazing marinade recipe. I tweaked it a little because I was out of a couple ingredients so this version is a little different from hers but I give all the credit to her for this dish. I used this same marinade on a deer flank this past winter (my dad freaked out over how good it was) and it would work on beef flank as well. It is an amazing all-around marinade for any meat. Please share your thoughts and photos. I would love to hear what you think.

The Marinade:
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup Worcestershire sauce
1/3 cup vegetable oil
2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
1 tsp basil, dried
1 tsp garlic salt
1 tsp dried chive
1/2 tsp pepper
2 Tbsp water

You'll also need this stuff...
4 chicken breasts 
1 1/2 Tbsp pecan oil
2 green bell peppers, sliced
1 yellow onion, sliced
salt and pepper

Combine all marinade ingredients in a zip-lock bag and shake. Add the chicken. Shake bag again making sure chicken breasts are coated well with marinade. You may need to massage the marinade around the chicken. Lay the zip-lock flat in your fridge and let marinate for a minimum of 4 hours, or up to 24 hours. When you are ready to start cooking the meal you will start with the peppers and onions. Heat a skillet to med-high heat with 1/2 Tbsp pecan oil. Add peppers and onions, salt and pepper to taste. Use a wooden spoon to stir peppers and onions occasionally. Place on simmer to keep warm while you cook the chicken. Remember to still stir occasionally to avoid burning or sticking. Heat a separate skillet to med-high heat and add 1 Tbsp pecan oil. When the skillet and oil are heated thoroughly, add in all 4 chicken breasts and cook for 4-6 minutes on each side. Use a meat thermometer to ensure the center of the thickest part of the breast reaches 165 degrees. Once the chicken is done you will remove from the skillet and let it rest for 2-3 minutes on a cutting board. Once rested, use a knife to cut the chicken breasts into strips. Serve on top of or along side the onions and peppers. You throw the chicken, peppers and onions on a tortilla with some guacamole, sour cream, salsa, cheese and lettuce and your family will be begging for seconds!

Monday, July 22, 2013

Stewed Okra

As you can tell by my caprese bread post from last week, my fresh veggie garden is the inspiration for most of my summer cooking. One of the most common side dishes in the south is fried okra (which is not so great for the waistline). So with my okra coming in I wanted to share a side dish that isn't battered and fried, something a little different. Thanks to one of the most amazing 82-year-old Italian Chefs I've ever had the pleasure of knowing and learning from, I bring you....stewed okra. I spent years not being able to order what I want at his restaurant because he loved me too much to give me anything but healthy fish and veggies. As a result of that I learned the value of the farmer's market and how to make the most amazing broiled halibut (I'll share this at some point) and his's out of this world! I also learned that okra can be delicious even if it isn't fried. I hope you enjoy it too!

4 cups whole okra
1 cup diced tomatoes
2 cups tomato sauce
1 cup water
1/4 diced onion
2 Tbsp chopped fresh basil
1/2 tsp olive oil
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp sugar

Combine all ingredients in a sauce pan leaving okra whole, bring the mixture to a gentle bubble and reduce heat to low and stew for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally to avoid sticking on the bottom.  I serve them and then each person just cuts off their own stems. Super easy right?


Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Caprese Bread

I just picked my first perfectly-ripe garden tomato of the season! It was cut up and eaten before I even got it into the house! With fresh garden veggies, we are so impatiently waiting on them to ripen that we want to taste-test them the second they are harvested. It doesn't get any fresher than that. I am always finding that we don't have any veggies to make a meal with because we just hit them with a water hose and eat the majority of them before they ever even see my kitchen. If you don't have your own garden and don't plan on starting one you can hit your local farmers market and grab local grown tomatoes. Make sure they aren't "resale" tomatoes, get tomatoes only from good local farmers who live in your community and make sure they are grown locally. As a bonus veggies at the farmers market are often much less expensive than at big name grocery stores. You can find your local farmer's markets here or  here. So in the spirit of the home-grown tomato here is a great appetizer (or side dish) for you and the family for a fresh summer meal.

1 French bread loaf (Ciabatta or Italian work well also)
3-4 tomatoes, sliced thin
Mozzerella cheese* 
Basil pesto
Fresh basil
Olive oil
Aged balsamic vinegar
Salt and pepper

*If you are buying fresh you will need 3 large "balls" of mozzerella cut about 1/4 inch, if you are using shredded mozzerella, you will need about 3 cups. The fresh mozzerella will not be as cheesy as the shredded but I love the flavor of fresh mozzerella. 

Split the loaf down the middle like a big sub sandwich and then cut each 1/2 into 3 pieces. Spread a generous amount of basil pesto on the bread, top that with the mozzerella, then the tomato slices. Add sprigs of fresh basil. drizzle with olive oil and balsamic. Add salt and pepper to taste. Bake in the oven for 15 minutes at 350 degrees. You are just looking for the cheese to be completely melted. 

Monday, July 15, 2013

Spicy Stuffed Endive

This was one of the appetizers I served at my wedding reception when we got back to Oklahoma from Cabo San Lucas, where we were married. I love the combination of the bitter Belgian endive and the smooth luscious spiced cream cheese. This is what I call a party-tizer because it's easy and simple while still coming off elegant and sophisticated for events such as bridal showers and cocktail parties.   

3 Belgian endive - get both red and green if you can find them
16 oz Cream Cheese, reduced fat
2 Tbsp milk 
2 tsp of garlic paste
3/4 tsp chili powder
1/4 tsp cayenne
1/4tsp ground cumin
1/2tsp dried oregano

Combine all ingredients (except the endive) in a bowl and mix well. You may want to use a hand mixer to ensure that everything incorporates well. Set aside. Cut the end off of each head of endive and the leaves will start to fall off. You will only use the endive leaves that are big enough to fill, the leaves from the center of the endive will start to get too small, so you can save those to cup up for a salad later on. Using the method I shared with you in my Twice Baked Potato post, fill a piping bag fitted with whatever tip you desire and pipe the cream cheese into the cut end of each endive leaf (see the picture above). Keep in mind you only need about 1 tsp of filling per leaf, so no need to fill the entire leaf up. Garnish with some cut chives, a sprig of chive or some paprika. 

You have unlimited options when choosing a filling to stuff endive with. Here are some ideas to try out: 
Goat cheese with cranberries and walnuts 
Goat cheese with raspberries and walnuts
Gorgonzola cheese, toasted macadamia nuts, chopped mint and a drizzle of honey 
Shrimp salad
Mango salsa
Chicken salad

I would love to hear some filling ideas from you guys in the comments section!


Friday, July 12, 2013

Taco Cups

The muffin tin at my house serves a far more important purpose than just baking my muffins, it also helps to create perfect bite-sized yummies for me and my family. Turning my favorite meals into savory little appetizers makes me way too happy! That's why these little Taco Cups are perfect for me.  If you have 30 minutes you have more than enough time to whip up these little treats!

1 lb ground beef
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp salt
2 tsp cumin
1 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/2 cup tomato sauce
48 wonton wrappers
grated cheese

sour cream
cheese (a little extra cheese never hurt!)

Brown the meat and onion in a skillet. Add in garlic, salt, cumin, chili powder, pepper and tomato sauce. Cook over medium heat until onions and garlic are tender. Stir occassionally, breaking up any large pieces. Set meat aside. In a greased muffin tin press 2 wonton wrappers into each muffin cup turning the top one 1/8th turn so that the corners do not line up with the bottom wrapper. Fill each "wonton cup" with 2 Tbsp of taco meat. Top with greated cheese and bake for 10 minutes or until the edges of the wonton cups turn to a golden brown and the cheese has melted. Top each cup with desired toppings and serve!


Monday, July 8, 2013

Frenchy French Toast

Again...I'm BIG on breakfast. This little gem is going to rock your world! Not exactly the healthiest breakfast ever, but still a breakfast of champions in my opinion. I love to go to breakfast joints and see all the different takes on breakfast favorites like French toast, waffles, crepes, etc. The possibilities are endless. This is a cinnamon roll take on French toast inspired by my little sis-in-law "Gizmo". She made a "Cinnabon" French toast at our house a while back that was outrageous. It had a lot of elements and every single one took the dish to another level. With this version I opted to take the lazy morning approach and create something that was simple and delicious and not too time consuming. Let me know what you think!

8 slices of French bread about 1 inch thick (This is what makes it Frenchy!)
10 egg whites
2/3 cup powdered sugar
4 oz fat free or reduced fat cream cheese (that makes it diet right?!)
1/4 tsp pure vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp sugar
Maple syrup

In a bowl combine cream cheese, powdered sugar and vanilla extract. Set aside. Then in a casserole dish or pie plate mix egg whites, cinnamon and sugar. Dip and flip each piece of French bread into the egg white mixture coating each side and giving it just a few seconds to soak up the egg white. Heat a skillet over medium heat. Place each piece of egg white soaked French bread on the skillet. You will likely have to do two or three batches. Cook until the egg on the outside starts to brown and turns a medium to dark golden. Flip and cook on the other side. The outside should get a little crispy and the inside should stay moist. To plate the french toast, plate 1 piece as it comes off the skillet or griddle and plop a dollop of about 1 1/2 Tbsp of the cream cheese mixture. Then place another piece of french toast on top slightly off the side of the other peice. Dust with powdered sugar and add chopped nuts if desired. Drizzle with Maple syrup. 


Wednesday, July 3, 2013

The Greek Burger

I am a burger purist...I LOVE a good old-fashioned all beef patty with American cheese and ketchup.....nothing else. But, for the waist-line, I rarely get to partake in that mouth-watering American favorite. More often than not, I swap lean or extra lean ground turkey for beef. (Check out the comparison chart at the bottom of the post to see why!) And since I'm not sticking to the pure form of a burger, I like to put a twist on it every now and then and this recipe is a perfect example. I love making gyros out of ground turkey and I decided to take that idea and make it into a burger. I love Mediterranean food and Greek is definitely top 3 so I was really excited to make this dish. Stuffed with Greek spices, topped with tangy feta cheese and a creamy tzatziki sauce, this Greek take on the cheeseburger will have you coming back for more!

If you are new to turkey burgers, go with the lean instead of the extra lean. It will be much juicier and will not shrink up as much. This recipe is also perfect for sliders, as in the picture above. (No, that is NOT just a giant tomato next to the burger!) Just make 3oz patties and use multi-grain dinner rolls for the bun!

The Burger:
2.5lbs lean ground turkey
1 pkg of 8 hamburger buns (I prefer a multi-grain, it just adds more flavor)
1/2 cup minced onion (or finely chopped)
1 tsp garlic paste
2 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper 
1 tsp curry
1 tsp coriander
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp oregano
1 tsp cumin
optional - black olives, finely chopped
Fat-free feta cheese, crumbled
1-2 tomatoes, thinly sliced
1 yellow onion, thinly sliced

The Sauce:
1 cup Greek yogurt (plain, non-fat)
1 cucumber
3/4 tsp dill 
1/2 tsp garlic paste
salt and pepper to taste 

To make the tzatziki sauce: start by peeling and rough chopping the cucumber. Put it in a blender and blend to a chunky pulp. Remove from blender and pour into a cheese cloth or paper towel. Press out majority of the liquid reserving only the pulp. In a bowl, combine the yogurt, 1/2 cup of cucumber pulp, garlic, dill, olives if desired, salt and pepper. Set aside. (You can even make this the night before)

Fire up the grill! In a mixing bowl, sprinkle seasonings over turkey meat. Use your hands to incorporate the spices into the meat. Add in the onion, and olives if you'd like, and mix thoroughly. Form 8 patties about 1 inch thick (approx 5 oz. each) . Spray both sides with olive oil (using a Misto type sprayer, which saves on fat). Once the grill is hot and ready, place patties on the grill over medium to medium-high heat. Cook for approximately 4 minutes on each side. Do not press the burger, that will dry the burger out. Use a meat thermometer to ensure that the center reaches 165 degrees. 

Building The Burger: put a patty on the bun, top with 1-2 Tbsp tzatziki sauce, 1 Tbsp feta, 1 slice of tomato and 1-2 pieces of lettuce.  Serve with a Greek salad: Lettuce, onion, tomato and black olive topped with salt and pepper and dressed with salad vinegar and olive oil. 

Per Turkey Burger: 353 cals / 12g fat / 18g carbs / 37g protein

Compare to Ground Beef:  495 cals / 23g fat / 18g carbs / 48g protein

Meat: Per 3oz
Ground Beef
Lean Ground Beef
Lean Ground Turkey
Extra Lean Ground Turkey