Thursday, May 31, 2007

Whole Wheat Pancakes

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At our house, pancakes are a favorite for breakfast-for-dinner! We rarely eat them in the morning, but with eggs, juice, & fruit, its one of our favorite dinner time treats! This is tasty recipe that uses 100% whole wheat flour, for extra health benefits!

1 Cup Whole Wheat Flour
2 Tbs sugar
1 egg, lightly beaten
2 Tbs cooking oil
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp baking powder
3/4 cup milk

Preheat griddle over moderate heat. Mix flour, salt, sugar, and baking powder in a bowl or wide-mouth pitcher. Combine egg, milk, and oil and slowly stir into dry ingredients and mix only until dampened. Batter will be lumpy.

When a drop of cold water dances on the griddle, begin cooking pancakes, using about 1/4 cup of batter for each, allowing plenty of space between them. Cook until bubbles form over surface, turn gently, and brown flip-side. Store leftovers in plastic bag. Leftovers freeze well.

Tips & Tricks
For extra light pancakes, turn before bubbles break. Turn one time only. Stack 3-4 deep on heated plates and keep warm while cooking the rest.

Suggested Sides:
Serve with your favorite pancake toppings, fresh fruit, and milk.

Make it healthier
Add fresh blueberries, applesauce, or bottled apples to the batter for an extra serving of fruit and a delicious flavor.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Sweet Onion Sauce

This delicious sauce is perfect for replicating Subway's Sweet Onion Dressing. It is also great on Coleslaw or Spicy Thai Salad.

Yield: 3 1/2 cups (will dress several salads. Keeps well)
Prep: 10 minutes

1 cup olive oil
1 cup sugar
1 small onion
1 tsp celery seed
1 tsp salt
1 tsp dry mustard
1/2 C white vinegar
1 small carrot, grated

Finely chop onion, add oil, salt, sugar, and mustard and beat or blend until well mixed. Add vinegar and beat. Fold in celery seeds and carrot.

Refrigerate leftovers and blend well before each use.

For sandwiches: After building your sandwich, dress with sweet onion sauce instead of mayonnaise. My favorite is a chicken breast sandwich with pepper jack cheese, tons of veggies, and sweet onion sauce.

For Coleslaw: Finely shred cabbage and dress with sweet onion sauce

For Spicy Thai Salad: Combine finely shredded cabbage, chopped peanuts, grated carrot, and dress with Sweet Onion Sauce. Season with Thai seasoning, a few drops of Tobasco sauce, and top with crushed ramen noodles.

Cous Cous Salad

Prep: 15 minutes
Yield: 8 servings

1 1/2 boxes Cous Cous
1 small can vegetable broth & equal amount of water
4 tomatoes
1 cucumber
2 green peppers
Mrs Dash
3/4 cup olive oil
3/4 cup lemon juice

Bring water and broth to a boil. Add couscous, stir, cover. Set for 10 minutes. Drain and cool. Add cup up vegetables. Blend together olive oil and lemon juice and use to dress salad. Season to taste.

Make it Healthier:
Use less Olive Oil. Use sodium reduced broth.

How Kids Can Help:
Kids can put vegetables into the salad bowl and help toss the salad.

German Sauerkraut Casserole

Yield: 4 servings (can be easily doubled for a large family or two for one meal)
Prep: 30 minutes, plus slow cooking 6 hours. Bakes 1 hour in oven.

2 cups thinly sliced potatoes
1 large onion, sliced
1 bottle sauerkraut, rinsed
4 pork chops
2 teaspoons caraway seed

Brown meat and reserve drippings for gravy. Layer bottom of baking dish or crock pot with 1 cup of potatoes, half the onion slices and half the sauerkraut. Sprinkle with 1 tsp of caraway seed and then top with half the meat. Add another layer of potatoes, onions, sauerkraut, seed, and meat.

Pour 1 cup water over all and bake uncovered for 1 hour, or cover and cook 6 hours in crockpot.

Make water gravy with meat drippings. To do so pour water into drippings, slowly pour a mixture of cornstarch and water into drippings and stir with a wire whisk to prevent lumps. Add seasonings to taste. Serve over casserole.

This is an authentic German recipe my Grandmother discovered while traveling and a family favorite!

Tips and Tricks:
I always double this recipe for an easy second meal! Its even better as leftovers because the flavors blend. Be sure to rinse the sauerkraut unless you like it really strong!

How Kids Can Help:
Kids can help layer the vegetables in the pan.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Sizzlin' Fajitas

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Yield: 8 Servings
Prep: 30 minutes, plus marinating

2 cloves minced garlic
1 green onion finely chopped
1/2 cup italian dressing
1/4 cup lime juice
1/4 cup soy sauce
1 lb lean boneless pork, chicken, or beef, cut into thin strips
2 onions, sliced
1 green pepper seeded & thinly sliced
1 red bell pepper seeded & thinly sliced
8 flour tortillas, warmed
sour cream
chopped tomatoes
grated cheese
shredded lettuce

Place garlic and green onion in shallow baking dish. Add dressing, lime juice, soy sauce. Stir and arrange meat in dish, cover and marinate in refrigerator turning occasionally for at least 4 hours and up to overnight. Remove meat from marinade, reserving marinade.

On broiler rack, arrange meat and vegetables. Broil, turning meat and vegetables once and brush with reserved marinade, 6 minutes or until meat is done. Remove meat and keep warm. Rearrange vegetables, then brush with additional marinade. Continue broiling 1 minute or until vegetables are crisp-tender. Serve meat and vegetables in tortillas and top with sour cream, tomatoes, cheese, and lettuce.

Tips & Tricks:
I like to throw sliced tomatoes in with the broiled veggies. Broiling is healthier than skillet-fried on cast iron, but retains the fresh traditional flavor.

How Kids Can Help:
Kids can help arrange veggies on (cool) broiler rack and can set out sour cream, tomatoes, lettuce, & cheese with serving utensils. Older kids can help grate cheese.

Make it Healthier:
Use reduced fat Italian dressing, cheese, & sour cream. Use whole grain, trans fat free wraps instead of tortillas. Use reduced sodium soy sauce.

Barbeque Sauce/Oven BBQ Chicken

Yield: This will coat 6 lbs of meat

3/4 cup sugar
1 cup ketchup
1 cup lemon juice
1/2 cup Worchestershire sauce
1/2 cup finely chopped onions
1/2 tsp dry mustard
1/2 tsp Tobasco sauce

Mix together. For BBQ chicken, pour sauce over 6 lbs of skinless chicken. Bake at 350 for 2 hours. Baste chicken 2-3 times while baking.

Tips & Tricks:
The more often you baste the better the chicken will turn out. In a pinch, I have used mustard in place of the dry mustard. This BBQ sauce can be used to season grilled meat as well with good results.

How Kids Can Help:
Kids can chop onion with Pampered Chef chopper

Salsa Cruda

Yield: 3 cups
Prep: 10 minutes

2 sprigs fresh cilantro
1 4 oz can green chilis, undrained
1 small onion, quartered
1 can plum tomatoes, drained
1/4 cup Italian Dressing
1/4 Tsp Hot Pepper Sauce
1/2 Tsp sugar

Place multipurpose blade on food processor work bowl. Add cilantro and hilis to bowl, pulse 2 times. Add onion and tomatoes and pulse 2 times. Add dressing, hot pepper sauce, and sugar. Pulse 2 times to combine.

Suggested Sides:
Tortilla Chips

Make it Healthier:
Use fat free Italian dressing & sodium reduced tomatoes & chilis.

How Kids Can Help:
Kids can press the pulse button on the food processor.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Broiled Corn on the Cob

Tonight we grilled steaks with corn on the cob. Since my pot for blanching corn was in the dishwasher I decided to try something new-broiled corn. I haven't gotten up my nerve to grill it yet, but broiling worked really well!

On a broiler pan lightly spritz the whole (hulled) cobs of new corn with olive oil.

Sprinkle with salt, pepper & seasonings. I used salt, pepper, and a dash of chili powder. Mrs. Dash would be delicious, but I didn't have any on hand.

Put under your broiler 5-8 minutes on each side, or until kernels darken slightly and plump out. When the corn is slightly browning on the very tips it is done. Turn once during cooking.

Tips & Tricks:
Next time I make this, I will use butter instead of olive oil, because I prefer the butter flavor on corn.

Make it Healthier:
*sigh* Don't use oil or butter. Omit salt.

How Kids can Help:
Kids can help hull the corn cobs and pick off the corn silk.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Outdoor Eating Food Safety Tips

This is something my friend Renae found that is certainly useful this time of year:

Outdoor Eating Food Safety Tips

The picnic and barbeque season traditionally begins on Memorial Day weekend. To protect yourself, your family, and friends from foodborne illness, practice safe food handling techniques when eating outdoors. Keep these tips in mind when preparing, storing, and cooking food for picnics and barbecues.
When You Transport Food:

* Keep cold food cold. Place cold food in a cooler with ice or frozen gel packs. Cold food should be held at or below 40°F.
* Consider packing beverages in one cooler and perishable foods in another.
* Meat, poultry, and seafood may be packed while it is still frozen so that it stays colder longer. Be sure to keep raw meat, poultry, and seafood securely wrapped so their juices don't contaminate cooked foods or foods eaten raw such as fruits and vegetables. And don't forget to rinse raw fruits and vegetables in water before packing them.
* Rinse fresh fruits and vegetables under running tap water, including those with skins and rinds that are not eaten. Packaged fruits and vegetables labeled "ready-to-eat," "washed," or "triple washed" need not be washed.
* Rub firm-skin fruits and vegetables under running tap water or scrub with a clean vegetable brush while rinsing with running tap water.
* Dry fruits and vegetables with a clean cloth towel or paper towel.
* Keep the cooler in the air-conditioned passenger compartment of your car, rather than in a hot trunk. Limit the times the cooler is opened.

Before You Begin:

* Food safety begins with hand-washing even in outdoor settings. And it can be as simple as using a water jug, some soap, and paper towels.
* Consider using moist disposable towelettes for cleaning your hands.
* Keep all utensils and platters clean when preparing food.

Safe Grilling Tips:

* Marinate foods in the refrigerator, not on the counter or outdoors. If some of the marinade is to be used as a sauce on the cooked food, reserve a portion separately before adding the raw meat, poultry, or seafood. Don't reuse marinade.
* Don't use the same platter and utensils that previously held raw meat or seafood to serve cooked meats and seafood.
* If you partially cook food in the microwave, oven, or stove to reduce grilling time, do so immediately before the food goes on the hot grill.
* When it's time to cook the food, cook it thoroughly. Use a food thermometer to be sure.
o Beef, veal, and lamb steaks and roasts-145°F for medium rare, 160°F for medium, and 170°F for well done.
o Ground pork and ground beef-160°F.
o Ground poultry-165°F.
o Poultry breasts-170°F.
o Whole poultry (take measurement in the thigh)-180°F.
o Fin fish-145°F or until the flesh is opaque and separates easily with a fork.
o Shrimp, lobster, and crabs-the meat should be pearly and opaque.
o Clams, oysters, and mussels-until the shells are open.
* Grilled food can be kept hot until served by moving it to the side of the grill rack, just away from the coals where it can overcook.

When You Serve Food:

* Keep cold foods cold and hot foods hot.
* Do not use a plate that previously held raw meat, poultry, or seafood for anything else unless the plate has first been washed in hot, soapy water.
* Hot food should be kept hot, at or above 140 °F. Wrap well and place in an insulated container.
* Foods like chicken salad and desserts in individual serving dishes can also be placed directly on ice, or in a shallow container set in a deep pan filled with ice. Drain off water as ice melts and replace ice frequently.
* Don't let perishable food sit out longer than 2 hours.
* Food should not sit out for more than 1 hour in temperatures above 90°F

For more information, see Summer or Consumer Advice & Publications

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

State Fair Homemade Bread

This is my grandmother's recipe for 100% whole wheat bread. This is the recipe I used when I won Grand Champion at the Douglas County Fair in 1994, and 1st Place at the Oregon State Fair. I use my Bosch Mixer, you will need a very big mixer (not a bread machine) such as a Bosch or KitchenAid to hold all the dough.

Yield: 6 loaves (freezes well)

Combine in bowl:
1 cup warm water
1/4 cup yeast
1 Tbs sugar

Let this start to work while you do the following-
Combine in your mixer:
8 cups water (a little warmer than lukewarm)
9 cups whole wheat flour (or you can use 4 cups wheat and 5 cups white)
1/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup honey

Beat for 3 minutes at slow speeed. Continue beating and add the yeast mixture slowly. Continue beating and add:

4 cups whole wheat flour
1/2 cup oil (I use extra virgin olive oil, but any vegetable oil will work)
1/4 cup salt
1 egg
1/4 cup whey powder (optional)

Continue beating at slow speed and add:

5-6 more cups of whole wheat flour.

Note: This recipe was made for a dry climate (Utah). In Oregon or similarly humid place you will need additional 1-2 more cups of flour, especially on a rainy day. Add slowly until its a nice consistency, it shouldn't be too sticky.

Mix for 8 more minutes at high speed. Remove from mixer and place in a very large bowl and cover with a clean dish towel. Place in a warm area and let raise until double in bulk. Divide and work into 6 equal portions.

Allow dough to rest for 5 minutes, then form into loaves. Try to push all the air bubbles out and place in greased bread tins. Dough should rise to double in bulk, but no more-don't let it get too light. Wheat bread will fall if it gets too light.

Bake at 400 degrees in preheated oven for 10 minutes. Turn down the heat and bake at 325 for 20 more minutes. Remove from oven and let set in tins for 5 minutes, then remove & cool.

How kids can help:
Kids can pour ingredients into the mixing bowl, older kids can crack the egg & help form loaves.

Make it Healthier:
My mom always made this with freshly ground wheat which retains nutritional value better than store bought. If you do use store bought flour, freeze it immediately when you bring it home from the store. It will keep better, and retain its nutrition. Of course this bread is already free of trans fats, high fructose corn syrup, and preservatives. and it is naturally a good source of protein and whole grains.

Lasagna Casserole

Yesterday I had planned to make lasagna only to find I was out of lasagna noodles. So we invented a casserole! It turned out really good!

Yield: 8 servings
Prep: 30 minutes

1 pkg corkscrew pasta
2 cups marinara sauce
2/3 cup cottage cheese
2 cups raw spinach torn into bite size pieces
1/2 tsp minced garlic
basil, oregano, & onion seasonings to taste
salt & pepper to taste
grated mozzarella cheese
grated parmesean cheese

Cook pasta according to package directions. Add sauce, cottage cheese, spinach, & seasonings and heat until cottage cheese begins to melt and spinach wilts. Pour into baking dish and top with cheeses. Cover & bake in oven until cheese is melted and casserole is heated through.

Suggested Sides:
Garlic Bread & Garden Salad

Tips & Tricks:
I used a microwave safe casserole and heated in the microwave instead of baking. You can also make this with browned ground beef instead of spinach-I would add a hint of chili powder if I did this. My entire family loved this dish and its easier than layering a lasagna & working with lasagna noodles. Plus I always have these ingredients on hand!

How Kids can Help:
Kids can tear spinach, grate cheese, and push buttons on microwave.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Cheddar Ham Soup

Prep/Total Time: 30 minutes
Yield: 7 servings

2 cups diced peeled potatoes
2 cups water
1/2 cup sliced carrot
1/4 cup chopped onion
1/4 cup butter, cubed
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 cups milk
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
2 cups (8 ounces) shredded cheddar cheese
1 1/2 cups cubed fully cooked ham
1 cup frozen peas, thawed

In a large saucepan, combine the potatoes, water, carrot and onion. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cover and cook for 10-15 minutes or until tender.

Meanwhile, in another saucepan, melt butter. Stir in flour until smooth. Gradually add the milk, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil; cook and stir for 2 minutes or until thickened. Stir in cheese until melted. Stir into undrained potato mixture. Add ham and peas; heat through.

Tips and Tricks
Use whatever cheese and veggies you have on hand for a different flavor. I chopped the carrot instead of slicing. Try different varieties of potato. I used Yukon Gold.
Make It Healthier
Thicken milk mixture with whole wheat flour. Omit salt. Use low-fat or fat-free milk and cheese. Use trans-fat free spread in place of butter.
How Kids Can Help
Chop onion and carrot with Pampered Chef chopper. Measure dry ingredients. Older kids can shred cheese.
Suggested Sides
salad, fresh bread

Nutrition Facts
1 cup (prepared with fat-free milk, 1/4 teaspoon salt, reduced-fat cheese and lean ham) equals 281 calories, 15 g fat (9 g saturated fat), 53 mg cholesterol, 798 mg sodium, 20 g carbohydrate, 2 g fiber, 19 g protein
Diabetic Exchanges
2 lean meat, 1 1/2 fat, 1 starch, 1 vegetable

Monday, May 21, 2007

Chicken and Summer Squash Packets

This is another recipe that is great for using up summer bounty from the veggie garden. An added plus is that is doesn't dirty a pan!

Prep: 20 minutes
Bake: 25 minutes
Yield: 4 servings

4 boneless skinless chicken breast halves (4 ounces each)
1/4 teaspoon salt. divided
1/4 teaspoon pepper divided
1 medium onion, sliced
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 small zucchini, cut into 1/4-in slices
1 small yellow summer squash, cut into 1/4-in slices
2 cups fresh sliced mushrooms
3/4 teaspoon dried basil
1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
1/8 teaspoon paprika
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon grated Parmesan cheese

Flatten chicken to 1/4-in thickness, sprinkle with 1/8 teaspoon each of salt and pepper. Cut eight 15-in by 12-in rectangles of heavy duty foil; place one rectangle on top of another to make four. Divide onion slices among the four rectangles; top with chicken, mustard, zucchini, yellow squash and mushrooms.

Combine the basil, garlic powder, paprika and remaining salt and pepper; sprinkle over vegetables. Dot with butter. Fold foil around vegetable mixture and seal tightly. Place packets on baking sheet.

Bake at 425 for 25-30 minutes or until juices run clear. Open foil carefully to allow steam to escape. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.

Tips and Tricks
In place of chicken breast, use chicken tenderloins to skip the flattening step.
Make It Healthier
Omit salt and cheese. Use trans-fat free spread.
How Kids Can Help
Measure spices. Arrange ingredients on foil. Close foil packages.
Suggested Sides
green salad, steamed corn seasoned with Herbal Salt Substitute

Nutrition Facts
1 packet equals 206 calories, 7 g fat (3 g saturated fat), 71 mg cholesterol, 449 mg sodium, 10 g carbohydrate, 3 g fiber, 27 g protein
Diabetic Exchanges
3 very lean meat, 2 vegetable, 1 fat

Pasta with Braised Squash & Greens

Yield: 4 servings
Prep: 30 minutes

2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
4 ounces cubed smoked tofu
1 medium onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
Pinch of crushed red pepper
1 1/2 cups vegetable broth
1 pound butternut squash, peeled and cut into 3/4-inch cubes
1 bunch Swiss chard, stems removed, leaves cut into 1-inch pieces
8 ounces whole-wheat penne, rigatoni or fusilli
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 teaspoon salt, or to taste
Freshly ground pepper

Put a large pot of water on to boil for cooking pasta. Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add tofu and cook, stirring, until lightly browned, 3 to 5 minutes. Transfer to a plate. Add onion to the pan; cook, stirring often, until softened and golden, 2 to 3 minutes. Add garlic and crushed red pepper; cook, stirring, for 30 seconds. Return the tofu to the pan and add broth and squash; bring to a simmer. Cover and cook for 10 minutes. Add chard and stir to immerse. Cover and cook until the squash and chard are tender, about 5 minutes.
Meanwhile, cook pasta until just tender, 8 to 10 minutes or according to package directions. Drain and return to the pot. Add the squash mixture, Parmesan, salt and pepper; toss to coat.

Nutrition Facts:

Calories: 412 Carbohydrates: 61 g Dietary Fiber: 11 g Fat: 8 g Protein: 24 g Sugars: 7 g

Tips and Tricks:
I am not a tofu fan-I leave it out or substitute grilled chicken.

Oven Fried Parmesean Chicken

Prep: 15 minutes plus baking
Yield: 5 servings

1/3 cup flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 dash of pepper
1 (3 pound) broiler-fryer chicken, cut up
1 egg, lightly beaten
2 tablespoons water
1/4 cup grated Parmesan Cheese
1/2 cup crushed Corn Flakes
2 tablespoons butter or margarine, melted

Preheat oven to 375. Mix flour and seasonings in shallow dish. Add chicken; toss to coat. Beat egg and water in separate shallow dish. Mix cheese and corn flakes in third shallow dish. Dip chicken in egg mixture, then in cheese mixture, turning over to evenly coat both sides. Place in 13x9-inch baking dish; drizzle with butter. Bake 1 hour or until chicken is cooked through.

Suggested Sides:
Mashed Garlic Sweet Potatoes

Tips & Tricks:
Turn chicken over halfway through baking for even browning.

How Kids Can Help:
Pput the seasoning mixture in a plastic bag, put chicken in & seal--kids can shake the bag to coat the chicken. Kids can help measure seasonings.

Rosemary Zucchini Sticks

This recipe is a great way to use up plentiful zucchini in the summer, and baking instead of frying makes them healthier!

Prep: 10 minutes
Bake: 20-25 minutes
Yield: 4 servings

2 medium zucchini, peeled
1 cup seasoned bread crumbs
1 tablespoon minced fresh rosemary or 1 teaspoon dried rosemary, crushed
1 egg
1 tablespoon water

Cut each zucchini in half widthwise, then cut each half lengthwise into quarters. In a shallow bowl, combine bread crumbs and rosemary. In another bowl, beat egg and water. Dip zucchini in egg mixture, then roll in bread crumbs. Coat again in egg and crumbs. Arrange on a baking sheet coated with nonstick cooking spray. bake at 375 for 20-25 minutes or until tender and golden, turning once.

Tips and Tricks
Experiment with flavored breads crumbs and different spices for new flavors.
How Kids Can Help
Measure dry ingredients. Coat zucchini in egg and crumbs.

Nutrition Facts
one serving (4 sticks) equals 144 calories, 2 g fat (1 g saturated fat), 53 mg cholesterol, 814 mg sodium, 24 g carbohydrate, 2 g fiber, 7 g protein
Diabetic Exchanges
1 1/2 starch, 1/2 fat

Light Guacamole

This lower fat version of a favorite dip is a yummy alternative when you have the munchies!

Prep/Total Time: 10 minutes
Yield: 12 servings

2 large ripe avocados, peeled, divided
1 cup (8 ounces) fat-free sour cream
1/4 cup chopped onion
3 jalapeno peppers, seeded and chopped
6 tablespoons minced fresh cilantro or parsley
4 teaspoons lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/8 teaspoon pepper
1 large tomato, seeded and chopped
baked tortilla chips or raw vegetables

In a food processor, combine one avocado, sour cream, onion, jalapenos, cilantro, lemon juice, salt, cumin and pepper; cover and process until smooth. In a serving bowl, mash the remaining avocado with a fork. Stir in the pureed avocado mixture. Gently fold in tomato. Serve with tortilla chips or vegetables.

Tips and Tricks
I skip the food processor part and just mash the avocado well with a fork. I have left out the cumin before when I didn't have any and the dip still tastes good without it. I also omit the jalapenos. If using dried spices, be sure to cut the amount by 2/3.
Make It Healthier
Omit the salt.
How Kids Can Help
Mash the avocado. Measure dry ingredients. Stir all ingredients together.
When buying avocados, make sure there are no bruises or soft spots. Avocado should be firm but not hard. Extra ripe avocados can be OK if you plan to use them right away. If avocados are too firm, leave them in a bowl with apples for a few days to speed up the ripening process.

Nutrition Facts
1 serving (1/4 cup dip) equals 79 calories, 5 g fat (1 g saturated fat), 2 mg cholesterol, 119 mg sodium, 7 mg carbohydrate, 2 g fiber, 2 g protein
Diabetic Exchanges
1 fat, 1 vegetable

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Pasta Salad

I love pasta salads and they lend themselves well to creativity (or to what you happen to have in your fridge!) They are great fresh, but making them ahead helps the flavors marry. I've never used all these things at once, but experiment with what you like, but here are things I've tried in various combinations that are yummy:

Pasta-rigatoni, spaghetti, or corkscrew pastas work well. For more delicious alternatives try precooked tortelini or raviolis.

Meats-chicken, tuna, ham, linguicia, or turkey. Or go meatless!

Cheeses-I've used everything from cheddar & mozzarella (2 varieties always in my fridge) to speciality deli cheese like Dubliner, Feta, Parmesean, Romano & Bleu cheese.

Veggies-tomatoes, black or pimiento olives, scallions or red onions, finely chopped lettuce, shredded red cabbage, shredded carrot, bell peppers (use multiple colors for a prettier salad), cucumbers, or summer squash.

Sauces-you can go basic with vinegar & oil; vinegar, mayo & sugar; or you can use bottled dressings like Raspberry Vinagrette, Zesty Italian, Ranch or Thousand Island. Pesto makes a yummy salad "sauce" too!

Spices-spice mixes like Mrs. Dash and Salad Supreme are preseasoned, low in sodium, and a few shakes can really make a salad great! If you don't have any on hand, try sprinkling a little onion powder, basil, parsley & black pepper on your salad to taste.

How kids can help:
This is another dish that really lends itself to help of the kiddo variety. Kids can put veggies, meats, & cheese into the salad bowl & older kids can help wash & cut vegetables or shred cheese.

Honey-Glazed Spareribs

Father's Day is coming, and here is what is on our Menu: Honey Glazed Spareribs! They are just spicy enough to have a kick, and oh sooo tasty.

Prep: 25 minutes, chill 12-24 hours, 7-8 hours in slowcooker
Yield: 6-8 servings

1 cup packed light brown sugar
1-1/2 cups honey
1/4 cup cider vinegar
1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
4 garlic cloves, crushed
1 tablespoon salt
2 teaspoons ground ginger
2 teaspoons Tabasco
6 pounds spareribs

In a medium saucepan slowly heat brown sugar, honey, vinegar and Worcestershire sauce until sugar is completely dissolved. Remove from heat and add garlic, salt, ginger and Tabasco. Stir until completely combined. Let cool to room temperature.

Divide the spareribs between 2 (2-gallon) resealable plastic bags. Pour half the marinade into each bag, press out air and seal. Refrigerate for 12 to 24 hours. Turn over two or three times while marinating.

Place the ribs and marinade in slow-cooker; marinade will not cover all the ribs. Cover and cook on Low for 7 to 8 hours. About halfway through cooking time, carefully reverse ribs so that they all cook part of the time in the liquid. Meat is done when it is tender and falling off the bone.

Per serving: Cal 492 (60% fat), Fat 32 g (12 g sat), No fiber, Chol 129 mg, Sodium 314 mg, Carb 18 g, Calcium 59 mg

Suggested Sides:
Pasta Salad or Stuffed Tomatoes, Corn on the Cob & Garlic Bread

How kids can help:
Kids can help add ingredients to saucepan (before heating) & push buttons on the crockpot.

Make it Healthier:
Trim any visible fat from ribs or use a leaner cut of meat. Reduce or eliminate salt.

Tips & Tricks:
Be sure to use a saucepan that won't react with your marinade, discoloring your food or damaging your pan! I like to use boneless spareribs which are easier & less messy for kids to eat. Cut up & reserve leftovers to serve as a second meal over rice!

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Filet Mignon Crock Pot Roast

This is another of my own recipes, so ingredients are approximate:

Prep: 20 minutes, 6-7 hours in crockpot
Yield: Serves 8

1 large beef roast
4-5 chopped scallions
2 garlic cloves, minced
3-4 strips of bacon, cooked & crumbled
1 cup of sliced mushrooms
3 TBS worchestershire sauce
1 cup low sodium beef broth

Put all ingredients in crock pot 6-7 hours. Remove beef from crock pot & carve. Drain vegetables & bacon reserving liquid and garnish on beef. Thicken reserved liquid with 1 TBS corn starch in crock pot for gravy if desired.

Suggested Sides:
Mashed Potatoes and Green Beans

Tips & Tricks:
In a pinch substitute Bacon Bits for bacon.

How Kids Can Help:
Kids can't put ingredients into crock pot & push buttons on slow cooker.

Broiled Sirloin Steaks

Prep/Total Time: 20 minutes
Yield: 4 servings

2 tablespoons lime juice
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon ground mustard
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
4 boneless beef sirloin steaks (5 ounces each)
1 cup sliced fresh mushrooms

In a small bowl, combine the first 6 ingredients; rub over both sides of steaks. Broil 4 inches from the heat for 7 minutes. Turn steaks; top with mushrooms. Broil 7-8 minutes longer or until meat reaches desired doneness (for medium-rare, a meat thermometer should read 145; medium, 160; well-done, 170) and mushrooms are tender.

Tips and Tricks
Use whichever cut of meat you like. Keep in mind that the difference between brown and burned when broiling can be a matter of 30 seconds, so check frequently. Buy presliced mushrooms to save time.
Make It Healthier
Use lean cuts of meat. Keep in mind that one serving of meat is roughly the size of your palm, so if your steaks are large, do not eat the entire piece.
How Kids Can Help
Mix the meat rub. Top steaks with mushrooms (supervise around the hot pan).

Nutrition Facts
1 steak with about 3 tablespoons mushrooms equals 187 calories, 7 g fat (3 g saturated fat), 80 mg cholesterol, 60 mg sodium, 3 g carbohydrate, trace fiber, 28 g protein
Diabetic Exchanges
3 lean meat

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Spinach Pie

This recipe is one of my mom's specialities. I was always happy to eat it as a kid, and now it's one of my family's favorites.

Prep: 20 minutes
Bake: 40 minutes
Yield: 16 servings

2 10 ounce packages frozen chopped spinach
4-6 ounces feta cheese, grated or crumbled
2 cups cottage cheese
1 package phyllo dough
1 stick margarine, melted
2 eggs
2 Tbsp dried parsley
2 green onions with tops, minced, or about half of a medium regular onion, finely diced
salt and pepper to taste

Cut the sheets of phyllo dough in half, they will then fit into a 9 x 13 Pyrex (or other type) dish very well. Keep them covered with a damp paper towel or damp linen cloth, they dry out very quickly.

Thaw spinach in a colander over a bowl. Sprinkle with a little salt to draw out the water. Keep pressing out as much water as possible. You can thaw the spinach in the microwave to get things started, but do not overcook.

Beat eggs, then add parsley, onion, cheese and salt and pepper. Mix well. Don't add the spinach until the phyllo dough is in the bottom of the pan.

Melt butter or margarine. Using a pastry brush, spread a little butter in the bottom of your pan. Lay 2 sheets phyllo on this, brush with butter, layer two more sheets, brush with butter. Continue until about 16-20 sheets are in the bottom of the pan.

Add the spinach to the egg and cheese mixture, mix well. Spread on phyllo in the pan. Continue to layer phyllo and butter.

Bake in pre-heated 350 degree oven for about 40-45 minutes, until lop layer is brown and crisp, but not burned. Cool 5 minutes before cutting into squares.

Tips and Tricks
This dish freezes well. To save space in the freezer, use a spatula to remove the pie from the baking dish and wrap in heavy duty foil before freezing. To bake, thaw in refrigerator and let sit at room temperature for 30 minutes before baking. Since this recipe makes such a large amount, I often use half the phyllo dough and make a half batch of spinach filling. Leftovers are also tasty served chilled.
Make It Healthier
Use low-fat cottage cheese and the lesser amount of feta cheese. Use reduced-fat phyllo dough. Omit salt and use trans-fat free spread in place of butter.
How Kids Can Help
My toddler loves to use the pastry brush to apply the butter to the sheets. Older kids can help press water out of the spinach. Use Pampered Chef chopper to chop onions.
Phyllo dough is usually found in the freezer section of the grocery store, with the pastry items and pie crust.

Budget Take-Out Ideas

If you are like me, you've given up on eating out with children. Take-out is the next best thing when you don't want to cook, but its soooo expensive. Here are some easy things you can do to stretch a take out meal for a treate that doesn't break your budget, and to dilute the fatty, salty take out with some healthier fare.

As soon as you place the order, put a batch of (brown) rice in your rice cooker. A batch of Egg-Drop Soup can be whipped up in under 10 minutes as well. By the time you pick up your dinner, the rice will be ready. Order foods heavy on the sauce and serve them over the rice. Be sure to order MSG-free. One order of Sweet & Sour Chicken or BBQ Beef & Broccoli served over rice with Egg Drop Soup will serve four this way, and your total out of pocket expense is $5-10 depending on the restaurant.

Go with take & bake instead of delivery just for the fact that its much much cheaper and pound for pound you get more pizza. Instead of soda serve fruit juice from your freezer and a bagged salad. Skip the specialty pizzas and go basic, add your own extra veggies at home and less meat & cheese equals less fat & calories. Take & bake pizzas here range from $5.99 for fresh at the grocery store to $10.99 at the parlor. Frozen pizzas (and there are some really delicious frozen pizzas these days) are $2-6 each. 1 large pizza, salad & juice will serve 4-6 adults at a total cost of $8-12 depending on which pizza you choose.

Deli Subs:
My family loves Subway, but to fill my family of four up on sandwiches is usually at a cost of $20! Instead, just order 2 footlongs, heavy on the veggies using lean meats. Order less expensive sandwiches instead of specialty sandwiches and turn them "special" using free additions like pepper jack or swiss cheese and specialty sauces. Extra veggies are usually free, but extra meat and cheese they charge you for-so load it up with lots of veggies. Ask them to cut the sandwich in thirds instead of in half. Skip the chips and serve at home with sliced fresh fruit and water to drink. Six people can eat this meal for a total cost of $10-12.

Cook a batch of rigatoni noodles after you place your order. When they are done, it will be time to pick up your food. Spritz them with olive oil so they won't stick. Add your pasta order to this to make it go farther--Italian restaurants serve pasta with 2-3 times as much sauce is needed. You won't have noodleless sauce left behind. Order one order of pasta (vegetable based sauces are healthier than cream based) and pick up a loaf of French Bread and a bagged salad. Serves 4-6 people and your total cost is in the neighborhood of $10-14.

Order a beef, chicken or pork meal served with rice & beans. Avoid serving based dishes like tacos, burritos, chimichangas, and go for something typically served with a few tortillas. At home, break out more tortillas from your fridge and extra lettuce & tomatoes. Serves four at a total cost of $5-10.

Also find out if anyone locally makes & delivers authentic Mexican food. This is uuber cheap and even more delicious!

Your grocery store deli probably has much less expensive chicken than KFC. I've found there is only one store in town whose chicken tastes good. However a piece of fried chicken is worse for your heart than a steak, so opt instead for a Rotisserie chicken. Skip the deli salads in favor of fresh fruit and bulk bakery rolls instead of the "meal deal" rolls that are often high in sugar and very small. Your total cost for four people is $8-10.

More Helpful Hints:
Plan ahead! If you know you are going to have a take-out dinner, order it around 2pm and get the lunchtime prices which are usually $2-5 cheaper than dinner entrees. Then put it in your fridge and reheat at lunchtime-leftovers usually taste better anyway! Avoid chain restaurants because their food is usually much higher in preservatives, trans fats, calories, and MSG than locally owned small businesses. If you do drink soda, a 2-liter at the grocery store is 79 cents versus $1-3 per soda from a restaurant. For more health benefits, skip the soda and drink water!

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Fettuccine With Black Bean Sauce

Prep/Total Time: 30 minutes
Yield: 5 servings

6 ounces uncooked fettuccine
1 small green pepper, chopped
1 small onion, chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 cups garden-style pasta sauce
1 can (15 ounces) black beans, rinsed and drained
2 tablespoons minced fresh basil or 2 teaspoons dried basil
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon fennel seed
1/4 teaspoon garlic salt
1 cup (4 ounces) shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese

Cook fettuccine according to package directions. Meanwhile, in a large saucepan, saute green pepper and onions in oil until tender. Stir in the pasta sauce, seasonings and black beans. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer, uncovered, for 5 minutes.

Drain fettuccine. Top with sauce and sprinkle with mozzarella cheese.

Tips and Tricks
Mix the spices and rinse the beans earlier in the day to save time. Use Pampered Chef chopper to chop onion and pepper.
Make It Healthier
Use reduced-fat cheese and low-sodium pasta sauce. Use whole-wheat pasta.
How Kids Can Help
Measure dry ingredients. Older kids can shred the cheese.

Nutrition Facts
3/4 cup pasta with about 3/4 cup sauce and 3 tablespoons cheese equals 350 calories 10 g fat (3 g saturated fat), 17 mg cholesterol, 761 mg sodium, 51 g carbohydrate, 8 g fiber, 16 g protein
Diabetic Exchanges
2 1/2 starch, 2 vegetable, 1 lean meat, 1 fat

Monday, May 14, 2007

Super Bowl Spinach Dip

This recipe is a family favorite and often requested for get togethers. Not just for Super Bowl!

Prep/Total Time: 10 minutes
Yield: at least 12 servings

2 10 oz. packages frozen chopped spinach
8 ounces plain yogurt
8 ounces sour cream
1 can diced water chestnuts
1 medium clove garlic, minced or pressed
1/2 medium onion, finely chopped
salt and pepper to taste

Thaw the spinach in the microwave. When cool, press as much water out as possible. Mix spinach with remaining ingredients and refrigerate. Serve with crackers or bread chunks.

Tips and Tricks
Buy presliced water chestnuts to save time. Use Pampered Chef chopper to chop onions.
Make It Healthier
Use light sour cream. Fat-free sour cream affects the consistency, so stick with light or reduced-fat. Omit salt.
How Kids Can Help
Chop onions. Mix ingredients. Press spinach dry.

Creamy Chicken and Artichokes

Prep: 10 minutes
Cook: 30 minutes
Yield: 4 servings

4 boneless skinless chicken breast halves (4 ounces each)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 tablespoon butter
1 cup white wine or reduced-sodium chicken broth
1 cup uncooked instant rice
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
2/3 cup half and half cream
1 package (9 ounces) frozen artichoke hearts, cooked, drained and quartered
1 can (2 1/4 ounces) sliced ripe olives, drained

Sprinkle chicken with the salt and pepper. In a large nonstick skillet coated with nonstick cooking spray, cook the chicken in butter for 3-4 minutes or until browned. Remove and keep warm.

Add wine or broth to the skillet, stirring to loosen any browned bits. Bring to a boil. Return chicken to skillet. Reduce heat; simmer, uncovered, for 6-9 minutes or until chicken juices run clear. Remove chicken and keep warm.

Cook rice according to package instructions. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, combine flour and cream; gradually stir into wine in skillet. Bring to a boil; cook and stir for 1-2 minutes or until thickened. Divide rice among four plates, top with chicken, sauce, artichokes and olives.

Tips and Tricks
I used canned artichokes, well drained and gently heated. I omitted the salt and used whole wheat flour. I browned the chicken in olive oil instead of butter. Use the microwave to make the rice.
Make It Healthier
Use whole wheat flour. Omit the salt. Serve with brown rice.
How Kids Can Help
Measure dry ingredients. Press buttons of microwave to make rice.

Nutrition Facts
1 serving equals 373 calories, 12 g fat (6 g saturated fat), 90 mg cholesterol, 575 mg sodium, 31 g carbohydrate, 4 g fiber, 29 g protein
Diabetic Exchanges
3 very lean meat, 2 fat, 1 1/2 starch, 1 vegetable

Chicken and Dumpling Soup

Prep: 25 minutes
Cook: 40 minutes
Yield: 4 servings

3/4 pound boneless skinless chicken breast, cut into 1-inch cubes
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
2 teaspoons olive oil
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
4 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth, divided
1 cup water
2 cups frozen french-cut green beans
1 1/2 cups sliced onions
1 cup coarsely shredded carrots
1/4 teaspoon dried marjoram
2/3 cup reduced-fat biscuit/baking mix
1/3 cup cornmeal
1/4 cup shredded reduced-fat cheddar cheese
1/3 cup fat-free milk

Sprinkle chicken with salt and pepper. In a nonstick skillet, saute chicken in oil until browned and juices run clear.

In a large saucepan, combine flour and 1/2 cup broth until smooth. Stir in water and remaining broth. Add the beans, onions, carrots, marjoram and chicken. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer, uncovered, for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a small bowl, combine the biscuit mix, cornmeal and cheese. Stir in milk just until moistened. Drop batter in 12 mounds onto simmering soup. Cover and simmer for 15 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in a dumpling comes out clean (do not lift the cover while simmering).

Tips and Tricks
Pre-cook the chicken to save time. In place of green beans and carrots, substitute any vegetable you have on hand or what your family likes. I used my Pampered Chef chopper to finely chop the carrot instead of grating it. I also omitted the salt, and used whole wheat flour.
Make It Healthier
Omit the salt. Use more veggies. Use whole wheat flour.
How Kids Can Help
Chop carrots and onion. Measure dry ingredients. Mix dumpling ingredients. Older kids can shred cheese.
Suggested Sides
green salad
I used Bisquick's Heart Smart baking mix.

Nutrition Facts
1 1/4 cups soup with 3 dumplings equals 353 calories, 8 g fat (2 g saturated fat), 52 mg cholesterol, 1,111 mg sodium, 44 g carbohydrate, 5 g fiber, 28 g protein
Diabetic Exchanges
3 very lean meat, 2 starch, 2 vegetable, 1 fat

Sloppy Joes

Prep: 30 minutes
Yield: 6-8 sandwiches

1 lb extra lean ground beef
1 dill pickle chopped
1 tsp mustard
1 6 oz can tomato sauce
1 peeled, diced tomato
1/4 cup diced green pepper
1 garlic clove, minced
3 scallions finely chopped
dash of chili powder
pepper to taste
6-8 hamburger buns
6-8 slices cheddar cheese (0ptional)

Brown beef in skillet and add remaining ingredients. Simmer until heated through. Lightly toast buns under broiler. Divide filling between buns and top with cheese. Serve immediately.

Tips & Tricks
I buy ground beef in bulk and freeze, but when I make hamburgers I usually shape the patties on the day I buy the beef. I make Sloppy Joes for my family when I have leftover hamburger buns but only frozen ground beef, because thawed beef doesn't form patties as easily. I have used ketchup in a pinch for the tomato sauce, and I've omitted the green pepper when I don't have it on hand.

Make it Healthier:
Use reduced sodium pickles & tomato sauce. Drain fat from ground beef & rinse before adding veggies, sauce & spices. Add pureed or finely chopped cooked carrots for more veggies, and serve with a slice of romaine lettuce or baby spinach in the completed sandwich.

Suggested Sides:
I like to serve this with other simple, kid-friendly foods like Baby carrots or corn on the cob & sliced apples.

How Kids can Help:
Kids can add the cheese & lettuce. Older children can open cans & help toast the buns.

Frosty Lemon-Strawberry Dessert

Prep: 15 minutes plus freezing
Yield: 12 servings

1 quart fresh strawberries, hulled
1/2 gallon vanilla ice cream, softened
1 can (12 ounces) frozen lemonade concentrate, thawed
2 teaspoons grated lemon peel

Place strawberries in a food processor; cover and process until pureed. Transfer to a large mixing bowl, add he ice cream, lemonade concentrate and lemon peel. Beat until blended.

Pour into an ungreased 13-in by 9-in by 2-in dish. Cover and freeze overnight. Remove from the freezer 15 minutes before serving.

Tips and Tricks
This is a great way to use seasonal berries. Try serving it with fresh blueberries.
Make It Healthier
Use low-fat or fat-free ice cream.
How Kids Can Help
Press buttons on food processor. Older kids can beat the berry mixture.

Nutrition Facts
1 piece equals 194 calories, 8 g fat (5 g saturated fat), 31 mg cholesterol, 58 mg sodium, 30 g carbohydrate, 1 g fiber, 3 g protein
Diabetic Exchanges
2 starch, 1 1/2 fat

California Quiche

Prep: 15 minutes

Bake: 30 minutes

Yield: 6 servings

5 eggs

3/4 cup milk

1/4 teaspoon pepper

4 ounces Havarti cheese, shredded

1 package (3 ounces) cream cheese, cubed

3/4 cup frozen California-blend vegetables, thawed and patted dry

1 medium plum tomato, thinly sliced

1/3 cup butter, softened

1 teaspoon minced garlic

12 sliced french bread (1 inch thick)

In a small bowl, whisk the eggs, milk and pepper. Stir in cheeses and vegetables. Pour into a greased 9-in pie plate. Top with tomato slices. Bake at 375 for 30-35 minutes or until a knife inserted near the center comes out clean. Let stand for 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a small bowl, combine butter and garlic; spread over both sides of each slice of bread. Broil 3-4 in from the heat for 1-2 minutes on each side or until lightly browned. Serve with quiche.

Tips and Tricks

If your grocery store doesn't carry California-style frozen vegetables, it's just a mix of broccoli, cauliflower and carrots. Or substitute whatever veggies you have on hand to suit your families tastes. Experiment with different varieties of cheese. Be watchful when broiling the bread, even 30 seconds can make the difference between browned and burned.

Make It Healthier

Use egg substitute. Use low-fat cheeses. Increase the amount of vegetables in the quiche. Use low-fat or fat-free milk. Use trans-fat free spread in place of butter.

How Kids Can Help

Whisk the egg mixture. Spread bread with butter/garlic combo.

Suggested Sides

sliced melon

Sunday, May 13, 2007


4 slices bread
1/2 cup water
2 eggs
1 lb ground beef
1/4 cup parmesean cheese
2 T parsley
1/4 tsp oregano
dash pepper
1 tsp salt
2 tbs oil

Soak Bread in water for 2-3 minutes, add eggs and mix well. Form meat mixture into balls and brown in oil.

Tips & Tricks:
This winning meatball recipe is one I got from my SIL Amber so Jordan could have Spaghetti & Meatballs. I like that the bread can be fresh & still work, you don't need to toast it or use bread crumbs-its faster that way! They are versatile and can be used for Spaghetti, Italian Wedding Soup, Sweet & Sour Meatballs, or just put them in the crock pot with BBQ sauce for a delicious side or appetizer. My kids love them because they are milder than store bought and I love them because I control what goes in-no MSG or preservatives.

Make it Healthier:
I always use 100% whole wheat bread. While extra lean ground beef doesn't hold together as well as the fattier stuff, experiment to find the lowest fat beef for a good quality meatball with less fat. Eliminate salt & reduce oil and cook by baking/broiling instead of frying.

Saturday, May 12, 2007


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Today a little boy came through our neighborhood selling Tamales, 12 for $12! I loaded & fresh, authentic tamales delivered to the door, who could ask for more? I hope his mother adds us to her regular route, but if not here is a tamale recipe I'm planning on trying out in an attempt to duplicate this delicious dish:

6 cups masa harina and 5 cups warm water or chicken broth
OR 6 cups of Nixtamal
1 1/2 cups lard or shortening
1 tablespoon onion powder
1 tablespoon cumin
1 tablespoon chile powder
1 1/2 teaspoon salt

To use Nixtamal-
Prepare corn according to use for masa dough. Add additional chicken broth until it is the consistency of thick peanut butter.
To use Masa Harina-
In a mixing bowl combine masa and warm water or broth until combined. Let the mixture sit for 20 minutes or so to let the masa soften. Then mix it on low speed until a dough forms.

After Masa or Masa Harina is prepared-
Gradually add in the salt, cumin and onion powder.

In a separate bowl, whip lard or shortening until fluffy. Add the lard to the dough a little at a time while mixing until well combined.

The mixture should be about the consistency of peanut butter. If not, add more masa, water or broth as necessary.

Cover and store in refrigerator until ready to use.

3 cups shredded beef
8 large roasted chiles- skin, seeds and veins removed and coarsely chopped.
1 white onion- peeled and coarsely chopped.
6 cloves of garlic- peeled and crushed.
1 jalapeno- seeded and diced
3 potatoes- peeled, boiled and chopped into large chunks.
1 cup homemade chile sauce or store bought

Time Required: 2 minutes per tamale

Sort the husks
Go through the corn husks removing any debris. Separate the larger usable pieces from the smaller bits and pieces. Save the smaller pieces for later.

Soak the husks
Place the husks into a large bowl. Cover husks with warm water. Set a heavy item (like a heavy bowl) on top of the husks to keep them submerged.

Prepare the husks
Remove the husks from the water and pat dry. Place into a covered dish or a large plastic bag to prevent from drying out. Use only the larger and medium sized husks for the tamales. The smaller ones can be used later for ties or patches. When looking at the husk, they have a narrow end, a broad end, and 2 long sides.

Adding the dough
Lay a husk on a flat surface. Place 1-2 tablespoons of dough onto the husk. When spreading the dough, leave a space of about 4 inches from the narrow end of the husk and about 2 inches from the other end. Spread the dough to the edge of one of the long sides and 2 inches away from the other long side. Try to keep the dough approximately 1/4 to a 1/2 inch thick.

Spread about a tablespoon of filling down the center of the dough.

Locate the long side with a 2 inch space with no masa. Fold that over, slightly overlapping the other side so the edges of the dough meet. Wrap the extra husk around the back.

Then fold the broad end over the top and then the longer narrow end over the broad end.

Create strips of husk by cutting or tearing 1/4 inch lengths off of some of the smaller or unusable husks. Use these to tie across the middle of the tamale to hold the flaps down.

Set tamales upright in a steamer. You can buy large steamers made just for this purpose. You may have something else you can use to create the same effect. The key is to have a small amount of boiling water on the bottom of the pot and a colander or mesh of some sort to keep the tamales away from the water.

Steam for about 90 minutes

Tips & Tricks:
Do not let the water boil up completely. Add hot water to the pot as necessary but keep it away from the tamales.
If some of the husks are too small or you have trouble closing them, use extra pieces of husk to wrap around the open areas.
You can also use kitchen twine to tie off the tamales.

Grilled Eggplant in Tomato Vinaigrette

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This recipe is from by Lisa & Tony Sierra.

Eggplants are a very common vegetable in the Mediterannean, particularly in Spain. This eggplant dish is great to serve as a tapa or a side dish, especially in spring and summer. It is the perfect make-ahead dish that you can take out a few minutes before serving. With two eggplants in the recipe, it serves 6 as a side dish and 12 as a tapa.

2 Eggplants, Medium size or 1 large
1/3-1/2 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
3 Roma Tomatoes
3 Tbsp Spanish Sherry Vinegar
2 Green Onions, finely chopped (optional)
2 tsp Capers, minced
3 Cloves Garlic, minced
1/4 cup Fresh Basil Leaves, chopped
2 Basil Sprigs for Garnish
1 Loaf French-style Bread

Cut and Grill the Eggplant
Trim off any stems or blemishes on the skin of the eggplants. Cut eggplants crosswise into slices about 3/8 inch thick.

Tip: Slices 1/4 inch thick are a bit too thin. They will burn easily and fall apart after they are dressed with oil and vinegar. Slices 1/2 inch thick take too long to cook under the grill and the skin can be hard to cut or chew.

Turn on broiler to heat. Place slices on a baking sheet and spray with oil, using a “mister” if you have one. If not, lightly brush each slice with olive oil. Place baking sheets under broiler on second shelf from top, so that they are not too close, or they will burn. When one side is slightly browned and soft when you press lightly, turn slices over, apply olive oil and return to broiler. Depending on your broiler, the distance from the pan, it may take 20-25 minutes to cook.

Tip: You may find that slices that are directly under the broiler cook much faster than those at the far corners of the pan. Keep a close eye on the pans and rotate the slices on the cookie sheet. Remove slices individually as they are done cooking and place on a large platter or serving plate. Don’t be afraid to overlap slices on the serving plate. It works just fine for serving and will be more appetizing.

Chop Tomatoes and Other Ingredients
While the eggplant is broiling, finely chop the tomatoes and place them into a medium size mixing boil. Finely chop the green onions and put the garlic cloves through a press or mince them by hand and place in the bowl with tomatoes. Remove the capers from the jar with a slotted spoon, so that they drain. Chop the capers and mix into the bowl with other ingredients. Make sure that stems are removed from the basil leaves, then chop the basil and place in bowl.

Add Olive Oil and Vinegar
Pour Olive oil and vinegar into the bowl and mix with the other ingredients.

Dress the Eggplant with the Vinaigrette
Allow the eggplant to cool a few minutes. Then, spoon the tomato vinaigrette sauce over the eggplant. Serve immediately with sliced bread or cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate. If you refrigerate this dish, be sure to take it out of the fridge a few minutes before serving, so that it warms up. You will not taste the rich flavors of this dish if it is served ice cold.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Super Stuffed Potatoes

Prep/Total Time: 30 minutes
Yield: 4 servings

4 medium baking potatoes (8 to 10 ounces each)
1 cup cottage cheese
1/2 cup cubed fully cooked ham
1/2 cup shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese
1/4 cup finely chopped green pepper

Scrub and pierce potatoes; place on a microwave-safe plate. Microwave, uncovered, on high for 16-18 minutes or until tender, turning once. Let stand for 5 minutes. Cut a thin slice off the top of each potato and discard. Scoop out pulp, leaving a thin shell.

In a large bowl, mash the pulp with the cottage cheese. Stir in the ham, mozzarella cheese and green pepper. Spoon into potato shells (shells will be full). Return to the microwave safe plate. Microwave, uncovered, on high for 3-5 minutes or until heated through.
Tips and Tricks
Depending on the size potatoes used, you can get more than 4 servings. I used three large potatoes and half of one was more than enough for me. Instead of microwaving the stuffed potatoes, I heated them for 5 minutes at 350, and I used red pepper instead of green.
Make It Healthier
Use different varieties of potatoes. Use low-fat or fat-free cottage cheese and reduced-fat mozzarella.
How Kids Can Help
Mix the ingredients. Fill the shells.

Beef Quesadillas With Salsa

(pictured with Super Stuffed Potatoes)

Prep/Total Time: 30 minutes

Yield: 4 servings

3/4 pound beef sirloin steak, cut into strips

1/8 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon pepper

2 to 3 tablespoons olive oil, divided

1 1/2 cups (6 ounces) shredded Pepper Jack cheese

4 flour tortillas (10 inches)


4 medium tomatoes, chopped

1 1/2 cups cubed fresh pineapple

1/2 cup chopped onion

1/4 cup minced fresh cilantro

2 tablespoons lime juice

1 tablespoon olive oil

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

Sprinkle steak with salt and pepper. In a large skillet, saute steak in 1 tablespoon oil until no longer pink.

Sprinkle 1/4 cup cheese over one side of each tortilla, top with 1/3 cup beef and remaining cheese. Fold tortillas over. In another large skillet, cook two quesadillas in 1 tablespoon oil over medium heat for 1-2 minutes on each side or until cheese is melted. Repeat with remaining quesadillas and oil. Cut into wedges.

In a large bowl, combine the salsa ingredients; serve with quesadillas.

Tips and Tricks

I cooked the beef in my slowcooker so it would be tender. Skillet cooked meat always tastes chewy to me. Preparing the meat this way meant I omitted the oil. I also baked the quesadillas at 350 for about ten minutes instead of pan frying in oil. I omitted the salt and left the red pepper out of the salsa. I used canned pineapple chunks, drained, in place of fresh pineapple. Dried cilantro can be used in place of fresh, but be sure to use only one third of the amount called for. The salsa is similar to bruschetta and would be tasty on french bread or with cubed mozzarella cheese.

Make It Healthier

Use low-fat cheese. Bake quesadillas. Use whole wheat tortillas.

How Kids Can Help

Older kids can shred the cheese. Layer ingredients on tortillas. Stir salsa.

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Chicken With Florentine Sauce

(pictured with Italian Green Beans)

Prep/Total Time: 30 minutes
Yield: 6 servings

6 boneless skinless chicken breast halves (4 ounces each)
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
3 tablespoons butter, divided
2 green onions, chopped
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup milk
1 tablespoon sherry or chicken broth
1 package (10 ounces) frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
2 tablespoons diced pimientos
1/2 cup sour cream
1 cup (4 ounces) shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese

Flatten chicken to 1/2-in thickness. In a large resealable bag, combine the Parmesan cheese, basil and oregano. Add chicken, a few pieces at a time, and shake to coat.

In a large skillet over medium heat, cook chicken in 2 tablespoons butter for 4-5 minutes on each side or until juices run clear. Remove and keep warm.

In the same skillet, saute onions and garlic in remaining butter for 2-3 minutes or until tender. Add flour and salt; stir in milk and sherry or broth until blended. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cook and stir for 1-2 minutes or until thickened. Stir in spinach and pimientos, heat through.

Remove from the heat. Stir in sour cream until blended. Spoon over chicken, sprinkle with mozzarella cheese.

Tips and Tricks
I omitted the pimientos and salt. Use kitchen shears to chop the green onions. I used less butter than called for, and substituted trans-fat free spread. I used half the sour cream called for and replaced the other half with 1/4 cup plain fat-free yogurt. I used one pressed clove of garlic. I put the chicken in a freezer bag with a zip top and flattened it with a crab mallet. I put my son up on a chair and gave him the mallet and let him bang away. The thick bag prevented any splashes and he had a blast.
Make It Healthier
Omit the salt. Use trans-fat free spread and use less to saute onions. Use reduced-fat cheese and cut back on amount sprinkled over chicken. Use reduced-fat sour cream, or replace up to half with plain yogurt. Use low-fat or skim milk.
How Kids Can Help
Flatten chicken. Shake bag to coat. Measure spices. Stir sauce.

Italian Green Beans

Prep/Total Time: 15 minutes
Yield: 2 servings

1/2 pound fresh or frozen cut green beans
2 tablespoons water
2 1/4 teaspoons grated Parmesan cheese
2 1/4 teaspoons seasoned bread crumbs
1/4 teaspoon garlic salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
1 1/2 teaspoons olive oil

Place beans and water in a microwave-safe dish. Cover and microwave on high for 4-5 minutes or until crisp-tender. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, combine the Parmesan cheese, bread crumbs, garlic salt and pepper. Drain beans; drizzle with olive oil. Sprinkle with cheese mixture and toss to coat.

Tips and Tricks
I am not a fan of frozen green beans, but this recipe was very good. In place of garlic salt, I used a shake of garlic powder and a pinch of table salt. I didn't mix the cheese mixture in a separate bowl, just put it straight on the beans to save time and dishes.
Make It Healthier
Omit the garlic salt. Use less olive oil.
How Kids Can Help
Push the buttons on the microwave. Measure ingredients. Toss mixture.

Nutrition Facts
3/4 cup equals 85 calories, 4 g fat (1 g saturated fat), 1 mg cholesterol, 309 mg sodium, 10 g carbohydrate, 4 g fiber, 3 g protein
Diabetic Exchanges
2 vegetable, 1/2 fat

Lemon Risotto With Peas

Prep: 10 minutes
Cook: 30 minutes
Yield: 8 servings

4 to 4 1/2 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth
2 shallots, finely chopped
1 tablespoon butter
1 1/2 cups uncooked arborio rice
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/3 cup white wine or additional reduced-sodium chicken broth
3 tablespoons lemon juice
1 cup frozen peas, thawed
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 1/2 teaspoons grated lemon peel

In a small saucepan, heat broth and keep warm. In a large nonstick skillet, saute shallots in butter for 2-3 minutes or until tender. Add the rice, thyme and pepper; cook and stir for 2-3 minutes. Stir in wine or additional broth and lemon juice. Cook and stir until all the liquid is absorbed.

Stir in heated broth, 1/2 cup at a time, stirring constantly. Allow liquid to absorb fully between additions. Cook just until risotto is creamy and rice is almost tender. Total cooking time is about 20 minutes. Add the peas, Parmesan cheese and lemon peel; cook and stir until heated through. Serve immediately.

Tips and Tricks
I didn't have shallots, so I used chopped onion. This recipe is listed as a side, but I added finely chopped carrot to make it a little heartier and served it as a main dish. You could substitute vegetable broth to make it completely meatless. I used the lesser amount of broth listed, but it will depend on the heat of your stovetop and what kind of rice you use. I also omitted the grated lemon peel because I didn't have any. The texture of this dish makes is perfect to hide vegetables in for picky eaters. My son ate a healthy portion without realizing there were carrots. Also, this dish is best served as soon as it is ready, it does not sit well because it is starchy.
Make It Healthier
Use reduced-fat cheese. Use trans-fat free spread in place of butter.
How Kids Can Help
Measure the ingredients. Older kids can stir the rice.
See the suggestions in the recipe for Shrimp 'N' Spinach Risotto for tips on cooking risotto.

Nutrition Facts
1/2 cup equals 207 calories, 3 g fat (2 g saturated fat), 8 mg cholesterol, 440 mg sodium, 35 g carbohydrate, 1 g fiber, 7 g protein
Diabetic Exchanges
2 starch, 1/2 fat

Baked Sweet Onion Rings

This baked version of a favorite fried food is tasty and healthier!

Prep/Total Time: 30 minutes
Yield: 4 servings

1/2 cup egg substitute
2/3 cup dried bread crumbs
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 sweet onion, sliced and separated into rings

Place egg substitute in a shallow dish. In another shallow dish, combine the bread crumbs, salt and pepper. Dip onion rings into egg, then roll in crumb mixture.

Place on a greased baking sheet. Bake at 425 for 15-18 minutes or until golden brown, turning once.

Tips and Tricks
I omitted the salt and used two eggs, beaten, with a splash of water instead of egg substitute. I put the bread crumbs in a resealable bag and shook the coated onion in batches to apply the crumb mixture. Vidalia onions make this dish very good! Experiment with flavored or seasoned bread crumbs, or different spices.
Make It Healthier
Omit the salt.
How Kids Can Help
Shake the bag to coat onions. Measure dry ingredients.

Nutrition Facts
1 servings equals 66 calories, 1 g fat (trace saturated fat), 0 cholesterol, 312 mg sodium, 12 g carbohydrate, 1 g fiber, 3 g protein
Diabetic Exchanges
1 starch

Turkey Reubens

(pictured with french fries and steamed green beans)

These sandwiches are a twist on the usual Reuben sandwich, and appealing to those who don't like corned beef.

Prep/Total Time: 10 minutes

4 slices pumpernickel or rye bread
2 tablespoons Thousand Island salad dressing
6 ounces sliced deli smoked turkey
1/2 cup sauerkraut, rinsed and well drained
2 slices Swiss cheese
2 teaspoons butter, softened

Spread two slices of bread with salad dressing. Layer with turkey, sauerkraut and cheese; top with remaining bread. Butter the outsides of sandwiches.

In a large skillet, toast sandwiches for 3-4 minutes on each side or until heated through.

Tips and Tricks
I omitted the sauerkraut (I don't like it, but I also forgot to by some for my husband). I also made homemade sauce because we don't keep Thousand Island dressing. Mix mayo, ketchup and yellow mustard with a splash of white vinegar and finely chopped kosher dill pickles until the sauce is the color of Thousand Island. Instead of pan toasting, I used just a tad of butter and put the sandwiches in the broiler for about 5 minutes.
Make It Healthier
Use low-fat or fat-free dressing. Leave off sauerkraut to reduce sodium. Use trans-fat free spread.
How Kids Can Help
Layer the sandwiches
Suggested Sides
french fries, green beans

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Crockpot Chicken and Shrimp Alfredo

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Prep: 20 minutes (6-7 hours in crockpot)
Yield: 4 servings

1 onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 (16-ounce) bag baby carrots
1 green bell pepper, sliced
3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into pieces
1 (16-ounce) jar Alfredo sauce
3 tablespoons milk
1 (10-ounce) package frozen fully cooked shrimp, thawed
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 (12-ounce) package pasta

In 4-5 quart slow cooker, combine onion, garlic, carrots, bell pepper, and chicken breasts. Pour Alfredo sauce over all. Pour milk into Alfredo sauce jar, close tightly, and shake vigorously to get all of the sauce.
Pour this into the slow cooker. Cover and cook on low for 6-7 hours or until chicken is cooked and vegetables are tender.

Add shrimp to slow cooker. Stir, cover, and cook for 10-15 minutes or until shrimp are hot. Stir in Parmesan cheese and serve over hot cooked pasta.

Tips and Tricks:
I found this recipe on and it really lends itself to variation! I throw in anything and everything I have in the fridge that sounds good at the time including lots of veggies. Its also good without the shrimp which isn't something usually found in my kitchen.

Make it Healthier:
In place of alfredo sauce, use a homemade white sauce with a heart healthy margarine like Smart Balance and skim milk instead of cream.

Crockpot Marinara

Prep: 15 minutes (8-10 hours in crockpot)
Yield: 10-12 servings

2 onions, chopped
8 cloves garlic, minced
4 (14 oz.) cans diced tomatoes with Italian seasoning, undrained
6 oz. can tomato paste
1/2 cup water
2 tsp. dried Italian seasoning

Combine all ingredients in a 3-4 quart crockpot, cover, and cook on low setting for 8-10 hours. Serve sauce over spaghetti. 10-12 servings.

Tips and Tricks:
This is a super easy crock pot marinara sauce. It can be served on spaghetti for a yummy meatless meal or side. I am more inclined to throw a few raw chicken breasts, meatballs, or leftover roast right in with the sauce to simmer & cook all day for a complete main dish in one pot.

Make it Healthier:
Add pureed cooked carrots and diced bell peppers for more veggies. Its already fat-free!

Saturday, May 5, 2007

Herbed Tomato Pizza Crust

Prep: 20 minutes + rising
Bake: 25 minutes

1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1 1/2 teaspoons minced fresh parsley or 1/2 teaspoon dried parsley flakes
1 1/2 teaspoons minced fresh rosemary or 1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary, crushed
1 teaspoon active dry yeast
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup tomato juice
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 1/2 to 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour

In a large mixing bowl, combine the first seven ingredients. In a small saucepan, heat the water, tomato juice and oil to 120-130 degrees. Add to dry ingredients; beat until smooth. Stir in enough all-purpose flour to form a soft dough.

Turn onto a lightly floured surface; knead until smooth and elastic, about 5 minutes. Place in a bowl coated with nonstick cooking spray, turning once to coat top. Cover and let rise until doubled, about 45 minutes.

Punch dough down roll into a 12-in circle. Transfer to a 14-in pizza pan coated with nonstick cooking spray; build up edges slightly.

Spread with pizza sauce and top with desired toppings. Bake at 400 for 25-30 minutes or until cheese is melted and edges are lightly browned.

Tips and Tricks
I made the dough in my bread machine instead of kneading by hand. Pay attention to the dough ball as it forms, and add extra water or extra flour as needed. When removing dough from the bread machine, coat hands in olive oil first. It keeps the dough from sticking to your fingers.
Make It Healthier
Choose lots of veggies to top the pizza. I used mushrooms, green pepper, onion and tomato. Use low-sodium tomato juice.
How Kids Can Help
Press buttons on bread machine, or measure ingredients into bowl. Older kids can knead the dough. Add sauce and toppings to crust.

Dilled Fish and Vegetable Packet

Prep: 15 minutes
Bake: 20 minutes
Yield: 4 servings

4 tilapia fillets (4 ounces each)
refrigerated butter-flavored spray
1/2 teaspoon salt, divided
1/4 teaspoon pepper, divided
2 cups fresh snow peas
2 cups fresh baby carrots, halved lengthwise
1 green onion, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons minced fresh dill
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup white wine or reduced-sodium chicken broth

Place an 18-in x 12-in piece of heavy duty foil on a large baking sheet. Arrange fillets in a single layer on foil; spritz with butter-flavored spray. Sprinkle with 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/8 teaspoon pepper.

Combine the peas, carrots, onion, dill, garlic and remaining salt and pepper; spoon over fish. Drizzle with wine or broth. Top with a second large piece of foil. Bring edges together; crimp to seal, forming a large packet.

Bake at 400 for 20-25 minutes or until fish flakes easily with a fork and vegetables are crisp-tender. Open foil carefully to allow steam to escape.

Tips and Tricks
Use kitchen shears to slice the green onion and fresh dill. I substituted regular green peas for snow peas, and used one garlic clove. In place of butter spray, I used a small dab of Smart Balance spread.
Make It Healthier
Omit the salt.
How Kids Can Help
Spritz butter spray. Add vegetables to pan.
Suggested Sides
baked potatoes

Nutrition Facts
1 fillet with 3/4 cup vegetables equals 178 calories, 2 g fat (1g saturated fat), 55 mg cholesterol, 396 mg sodium, 13 g carbohydrate, 4 g fiber, 24 g protein
Diabetic Exchanges
3 very lean meat, 2 vegetable

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Shrimp and Spinach Risotto

Prep: 20 minutes
Cook: 35 minutes
Yield: 4 servings

3 1/4 to 3 3/4 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth
1 1/2 cups chopped fresh mushrooms
1 small onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon butter
1 cup uncooked arborio rice
1 package (6 ounces) fresh baby spinach, coarsely chopped
1 pound cooked medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
1/4 teaspoon pepper

In a small saucepan, heat broth and keep warm. In a large nonstick skillet, saute the mushrooms, onion and garlic in butter until tender, about 3 minutes. Add rice; cook and stir for 2-3 minutes. Carefully stir in 1 cup of heated broth. Cook and stir until all of the liquid is absorbed.

Add remaining broth, 1/2 cup at a time, stirring constantly. Allow liquid to absorb between additions. Cook just until risotto is creamy and rice is almost tender. Total cooking time is about 20 minutes. Add the spinach, shrimp, cheese and pepper; cook and stir until spinach is wilted and shrimp are heated through. Serve immediately.

Tips and Tricks
This was listed as a side dish, but it makes a great main dish as well. Risotto requires some hands on time, but is very easy to make. I used frozen spinach (10 oz package) in place of fresh, and I used less garlic then called for. I also used presliced mushrooms to save time.
Make It Healthier
Rice is naturally sodium, gluten and cholesterol free, with only a trace of fat and no trans fats. Risotto can be as healthy as the ingredients you add to it.
How Kids Can Help
Pour the broth into the pot. Older kids can stir. Use Pampered Chef chopper to chop onion.
While arborio is the best rice for making risotto, any medium or short grain rice will work. Do not use long grain rice, it doesn't have the starch content to make the risotto creamy. Also, do not rinse the rice before cooking, because you need the starch the obtain the right texture. Keep the liquid warm. Adding cold liquid to hot rice extends cooking time. To make risotto with whatever you have on hand, follow these steps: saute aromatics (such as herbs or garlic) and add uncooked rice; add warm liquid, a bit at a time, stirring constantly until liquid is absorbed; stir in any of your favorite ingredients, such as cheese, veggies or cooked meats. The final texture should be creamy, but not soupy.

Nutrition Facts
1 1/4 cups equals 405 calories, 8 g fat (4 g saturated fat), 187 mg cholesterol, 906 mg sodium, 47 g carbohydrate, 2 g fiber, 35 g protein
Diabetic Exchanges
4 very lean meat, 2 1/2 starch, 1 vegetable, 1 fat

Friday, May 4, 2007

Hearty Lentil Spaghetti

Prep: 15 minutes
Cook: 70 minutes
Yield: 8 servings

3/4 cup chopped onion
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 1/2 cups dried lentils, rinsed
4 cups vegetable broth
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 can (14 1/2 ounces) Italian diced tomatoes
1 can (6 ounces) tomato paste
1 teaspoon white vinegar
1 1/2 teaspoons dried basil
1 12/ teaspoon dried oregano
12 ounces uncooked spaghetti
1/4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese

In a large saucepan coated with nonstick cooking spray, cook onion and garlic in oil until tender. Stir in the lentils, broth, pepper and cayenne. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cover and simmer for 20-30 minutes or until lentils are tender.

Stir in the tomatoes, tomato paste, vinegar, basil and oregano. Return to a boil. Reduce heat; cover and simmer for 4-45 minutes.

Cook spaghetti according to package directions; drain. Serve with lentil sauce. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.

Tips and Tricks
Use a food chopper to chop the onions. If garlic cloves are large, or if you do not like a lot of garlic, use only one clove. The tomato paste can be omitted without changing the consistency.
Make It Healthier
Use low-sodium canned tomatoes. Use whole grain or whole wheat spaghetti. Use low-sodium broth.
How Kids Can Help
Measure ingredients. Chop onions. Use garlic press to mince garlic.
Suggested Sides
fresh bread, green salad
Lentils are usually found with the dried beans at the grocery store.

Nutrition Facts
3/4 cup sauce with 3/4 cup spaghetti equals 353 calories, 3 g fat (1 g saturated fat), 2 mg cholesterol, 480 mg sodium, 63 g carbohydrate, 14 g fiber, 18 g protein

Thursday, May 3, 2007

Baked Potato Bar

I know you don't need a recipe for this, but this is what we had for dinner last night. It's something my family loves, but I forget to make, so I'm putting it on here to remind myself! It's a great in a pinch meal that is quick & easy and can be thrown together with staples in the pantry.

Prep: 15-50 minutes

Scrub & prick potatoes. Bake potatoes in microwave (for quick prep) or cover with foil and bake until soft.

Top with any combination of the following:

Cream of Broccoli Soup
Cheddar Cheese Soup
Cream of Mushroom Soup
Sour Cream
Cottage Cheese
Diced Tomatoes
Bell Peppers

....Or any other favorite potato topping.

Tips & Tricks
This is a hit with my family because like tacos, wraps & sandwiches, everyone is free to choose their favorite items. It works well with toddlers because they can eat their potato with toppings, or they can eat their potato & toppings separately. For an extra quick meal, microwave potatoes and use pre-shredded cheese and pre-cut veggies.

This is an easy meal for feeding a large group buffet style.

Make It Healthier
Skip creamy soups and sour cream and opt for (leftover) homemade chili or cottage cheese & salsa. Load up your potato with veggies and lean cheeses.

How Kids Can Help
Kids can help scrub & prick potatoes, push buttons on microwave, wrap potatoes in foil, cut veggies & great cheese. This is a meal that a school age child could make independently!