Monday, March 31, 2008

Kitty Litter Cake

This recipe is from SuzieQ Cooks:

1 pk Spice cake mix
1 pk White cake mix
1 pk White sandwich cookies
1 sm Package instant vanilla pudding mix
12 sm Tootsie Rolls

Prepare cake mixes and bake according to directions. Prepare pudding mix and chill until ready to assemble. Crumble white sandwich cookies in small batches in blender. They tend to stick, so scrape often.

When cakes are cooled, crumble into a large bowl. Toss with half the cookie crumbs and the chilled pudding. Gently combine. Pour into a NEW kitty litter pan.

Put unwrapped Tootsie Rolls in a microwave safe dish three at a time and heat until soft and pliable. Shape ends so they are no longer blunt, curving slightly. Repeat until you have nine, and bury them in the mixture. Sprinkle the other half of cookie crumbs over top. Heat three more Tootsie Rolls in the microwave until almost melted. Scrape them on top of the cake and sprinkle with cookie crumbs. For another realistic touch you can sprinkle a few drops of yellow food coloring in one area of the cake. Serve with a new pooper scooper. Serves 10-12

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Oven-Fried Sesame Chicken

Prep: 5 minutes
Cook: 30 minutes
Yield: 4 servings

2 Tbsp low-sodium soy sauce
4 skinless boneless chicken breasts, 4 ounces each
3 Tbsp sesame seeds
2 Tbsp all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
Butter-flavored cooking spray

Coat chicken in soy sauce. Mix flour, pepper, sesame seeds and salt in a resealable plastic bag. Place chicken into bag and shake to coat.

Place in a baking dish coated with cooking spray and spray tops of chicken.

Bake at 450 degrees for 30 minutes or until cooked through.

Tips and Tricks
I used thin-sliced chicken, so I cooked it at 350 for 20 minutes. Look for sesame seeds in the Asian section of the grocery store, they are much cheaper than buying in the spice section. I also forgot to coat the chicken with the soy sauce and this dish still tasted great.
Make It Healthier
Use whole wheat flour. Omit salt.
How Kids Can Help
Shake bag to coat chicken. Spray pan and chicken with cooking spray.

Nutrition Facts
one serving equals 198 calories, 31 g protein, 5 g carbs, 6 g fat, trace fiber

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Tilapia Piccata

This quick and easy dish comes together in no time!

Prep/Total Time: 18 minutes
Yield: 4 servings

1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1 pound tilapia fillets
4 tsp canola oil
1 cup reduced-sodium chicken broth
1 tsp corn starch
2 Tbsp lemon juice
1 Tbsp butter
1 Tbsp chopped parsley
2 Tbsp nonpareil capers, rinsed and drained, optional

Combine flour, salt and pepper. Dredge fish in flour mixture, coating well.

In a skillet, heat oil on medium-high heat and cook fish until brown, about 2 minutes. Flip and cook another minute, then remove to a plate.

Increase heat to high and add broth to skillet. Bring to a boil and reduce until 1/2 cup remains, about 3 minutes. Dissolve cornstarch in 1 Tbsp water and whisk into broth. Cook another minute, then add butter, parsley, lemon juice and capers. Spoon sauce over fish.

Tips and Tricks
I used whole wheat flour to coat the fish and omitted the capers. My 16 month old baby went crazy for this meal! I also used fresh parsley. If using dried parsley, be sure to reduce the amount.
Make It Healthier
Use whole wheat flour and omit salt.
How Kids Can Help
Older kids can help coat the fish. Younger kids can measure ingredients.

Nutrition Facts
One serving equals 269 calories, 26 g protein, 10 g fat, 20 g carbs, 18 mg calcium, 1 g fiber

Healthy Carbonara

A new recipe from Parents Magazine. Using fat free half-and-half cuts the fat and calories down.

Prep/Total Time: 20 minutes
Yield: 4 servings

1 9-ounce package fettuccine
1 cup frozen green peas
3 slices center-cut bacon
1 small onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 tsp thyme
1/2 cup fat free half-and-half
1/2 cup shredded Parmesan

Cook pasta according to package directions, but don't salt the water. Three minutes before the pasta is supposed to be done, ass the peas to the pot. Drain and reserve 3/4 cup cooking liquid.

Cook bacon in a large skillet until crispy. Reserve 2 teaspoons of dripping and discard the rest. Add onion to the pan and cook until soft. Add the thyme and garlic and cook another minute. Stir in pasta and peas and reserved cooking liquid and half-and-half. Cook 2 minutes.

Crumble bacon on top and toss in cheese.

Tips and Tricks
I cooked the bacon in the microwave and then used a teaspoon of olive oil to cook the onions. I used Italian seasoning in place of thyme. Use spinach fettuccine to up your veggie intake.
Make It Healthier
Cook onions in cooking spray instead of bacon drippings. Serve with whole wheat pasta.
How Kids Can Help
Measure ingredients. Push buttons on microwave.

Nutrition Facts
one serving equals 326 calories, 16 g protein, 10 g fat, 44 g carbs, 187 mg calcium, 3 g fiber

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Chicken Ranch Tacos

A delicious favorite from Betty Crocker.

Prep: 25 minutes
Yield: 5 servings

1box (4.7 oz) Old El Paso® Stand 'N Stuff™ taco shells
3cups cut-up deli rotisserie chicken (from 2- to 2 1/2-lb chicken)
1package (1.25 oz) Old El Paso® taco seasoning mix
1/2cup ranch dressing
1 1/2
cups shredded lettuce
1medium tomato, chopped (3/4 cup)
1cup shredded Cheddar cheese (4 oz)
1/4cup sliced green onions

Additional ranch dressing, if desired

1.Heat taco shells in oven as directed on box.
2.Meanwhile, in medium microwavable bowl, place chicken. Sprinkle with taco seasoning mix; Toss gently to coat. Microwave uncovered on High 2 to 3 minutes or until hot. Stir in 1/2 cup dressing.
3.Spoon warm chicken mixture into heated taco shells. Top with lettuce, tomato, cheese and onions. Drizzle with additional dressing.

How Kids Can Help:
Kids can help layer ingredients in taco shells.

Tips & Tricks:
You can use any diced, cooked chicken in place of rotisserie chicken.

Nutrition Information:

1 Serving: Calories 410 (Calories from Fat 230); Total Fat 25g (Saturated Fat 8g, Trans Fat 2 1/2g); Cholesterol 70mg; Sodium 870mg; Total Carbohydrate 25g (Dietary Fiber 3g, Sugars 3g); Protein 22g Percent Daily Value*: Vitamin A 15%; Vitamin C 6%; Calcium 15%; Iron 10% Exchanges: 1 1/2 Starch; 0 Other Carbohydrate; 0 Vegetable; 2 1/2 Lean Meat; 3 1/2 Fat Carbohydrate Choices: 1 1/2

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Turkey Meatball Subs

Prep: 40 minutes
Cook: 20 minutes
Yield: 4 servings
5 whole-grain sub rolls
1 pound extra-lean ground white turkey breast
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tsp dried oregano
1 egg
1 egg white
1 small onion, thinly sliced
1 14.5 ounce can Italian Style tomatoes
1/4 cup shredded reduced fat mozzarella cheese
Using a food processor, process one sub roll into fine bread crumbs. Measure out one cup of crumbs.
In a large mixing bowl, combine the turkey, garlic, eggs, oregano and crumbs. Shape into meatballs. Add meatballs to a skillet and brown on all sides. Add onion and cook, stirring frequently, until slices are limp and just starting to turn brown.
Add tomatoes and stir to coat. Allow mixture to come to a slight boil, then reduce heat and cook for twenty minutes or until meatballs are cooked through.
Split remaining rolls in half lengthwise and fill with meatballs and sauce. Top with shredded cheese.
Tips and Tricks
I skipped the processing the extra roll and just used Italian bread crumbs. I also used extra lean ground beef because my husband doesn't like ground turkey. I used part-skim mozzarella because the reduced-fat kind doesn't seem to melt well.
Make It Healthier
Use sodium-free tomatoes.
How Kids Can Help
Measure ingredients. Older kids can shred cheese.
Nutrition Facts
One sandwich equals 355 calories, 4.5 grams fat (0.5 g saturated fat), 39g carbs, 4 g fiber, 7g sugars, 39 g protein, 494 mg sodium, 125 mg cholesterol

Friday, March 21, 2008

Pasta With Ricotta And Peas

Prep/Total Time: 15 minutes
Yield: 6 servings

12 ounces whole wheat pasta
1/2 cup part-skim ricotta
3 tbsp olive oil
1 clove garlic, chopped
1 cup fresh peas
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1 cup halved yellow grape tomatoes
1 lemon, zested

Boil a pot of water and cook pasta according to package directions. Drain, reserving one cup of cooking liquid. In a bowl, toss hot pasta and ricotta cheese until combined.

Warm olive oil in a large skillet and add garlic, peas, salt and pepper. Saute for about 4 minutes, then add cooking liquid and cook until peas are bright green and tender, about 4 more minutes.

Add the ricotta pasta to the pan, toss over low heat to combine. Add tomatoes and mix. Sprinkle with lemon zest.

Tips and Tricks
My super picky son ate this healthier version of mac and cheese with no complaints. I used frozen peas and skipped the cooking in the pan step. Instead, I steamed them in the microwave. I also used dried lemon peel in place of the freshly zested lemon. Use regular orange grape tomatoes if you can't find yellow ones.
Make It Healthier
Omit salt.
How Kids Can Help
Pour pasta into water. Measure spices.

Nutrition Facts
one serving equals 323 calories, 11 g protein, 10 g fat, 48 g carbohydrate, 68 mg calcium, 5 g fiber

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Chili 'N' Cornbread Bake

Prep: 40 minutes
Yield: 6 servings

1 1/2 cups hot water
1 pkg cornbread stuffing mix
1 1 /2 lbs lean ground beef
1 15 oz can kidney beans, undrained
1 8 oz can tomato sauce
1 cup thick & chunky salsa
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese

Preheat oven to 400. Add hot water to stuffing mix, stir until moistened. Set aside. Brown meat in a large skillet. Drain and add beans with liquid, tomato sauce and salsa. Mix well. spoon into 2 qt casserole dish. Sprinkle with cheese and top with prepared stuffing. Bake 30 minutes or until heated through.

Tips & Tricks:
Experiment with adding your favorite chili add ins like bell peppers, onions, and corn.

Make it Healthier:
Use reduced sodium beans and tomato sauce. Reduce ground beef or replace part of the ground beef with bulgur wheat. Use organic, whole grain stuffing mix and low fat cheese.

How Kids Can Help:
Kids can dump ingredients. Older kids can shred cheese. Kids can sprinkle cheese on casserole.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Poll: Grocery Budgets

After a hiatus due to the holidays and some family issues, we're bringing back our polls. Check out the latest poll, "What do you think is a reasonable grocery budget for a family of four?"

Reducing our grocery costs has been at the top of my list of financial goals for some time, especially now that food prices are skyrocketing. I do what I can with coupons and shopping sales, but there are certain sacrifices I'm not willing to make when it comes to saving money at the supermarket. Most weeks, a full half of my list consists of fresh produce, and when I look at my receipt, the big ticket items are usually lean cuts of meat or non-processed dairy items. Once I actually calculated what I was spending on diet soda, I confronted my problem with caffeine and cut down our bills.

So when a friend told me she spends over 200 dollars a week feeding her family of four, I was amazed because I spend considerably less than that for MY family of four, and was still worried that I needed to crunch my budget a little more. I also picked up a copy of the new magazine Clean Eating to see if their headline of '5 Dinner For 60 Dollars' was reasonable. Not only was it do-able, but I made some small changes and did it for even less. And found all 5 recipes to be tasty, healthy and easy.

You can read about my experiment here and also take the 60 dollar challenge yourself.

We'd love to know: what do you consider to be a reasonable grocery budget for your family? What are the most expensive items on your list? Do you have plans to cut down the amount you spend? Any tips or tricks?

Spicy Chicken With Brown Rice Pilaf

Prep: 20 minutes
Cook:50 minutes
Yield: 4 servings

1 tsp olive oil
1 small onion, finely chopped
1/4 tsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp dried oregano
1 cup brown rice
2 cups reduced-sodium chicken stock
1/3 cup low-fat yogurt
1 tsp chili powder
1 clove garlic, minced
juice from 1/2 lime
1/2 tsp sea salt
cooking spray
4 skinless, boneless chicken breasts

In a saucepan, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add onion and cook until soft, approximately 5 minutes. Add cumin and oregano, stir until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add rice and stir to coat with onion mixture. Add stock and when it begins to boil, reduce heat to low, cover pan with lid and cook fr 50 minutes. Stir occasionally. Remove pan from heat and let sit for ten minutes. Fluff pilaf prior to serving.

While rice is cooking, mix yogurt, chili powder, garlic and lime juice and salt in a small bowl. Preheat oven to 400. Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil and spray lightly with cooking spray. Place chicken breasts on baking sheet and coat each with a quarter of the yogurt mixture. Bake chicken for 20-25 minutes or until cooked through. Serve with pilaf.

Tips and Tricks
This recipe did not take me 50 minutes to cook. My oven/stove are gas powered, and my rice pilaf cooked in closer to 15-20 minutes. I used Uncle Ben's brown rice, and have found that this brand cooks faster than other brands. So be sure to check the rice frequently. I also found this pilaf to be slightly bland, and prefer this cheesy version instead. I left the salt out of the yogurt mix, used fat-free yogurt, and in place of fresh lime juice, used 1 tablespoon refrigerated juice.
Make It Healthier
Use fat-free yogurt. Omit salt.
How Kids Can Help
Measure ingredients. Older kids can help coat chicken.

Nutrition Facts
one serving equals 296 calories, 4 g fat (1g saturated fat), 31 g carbs, 2 g fiber, 3 g sugar, 32 g protein, 419 g sodium, 69 mg cholesterol

Friday, March 14, 2008

French Onion Soup w/ Cheese Crouton

Prep: 45 minutes
Yield: 4 servings

4 cups low sodium beef broth
1 large onion, thinly sliced
1/2 tsp sugar
1 tbs flour
1 tbs butter
1/4 cup apple juice
4 slices frozen garlic Texas Toast
Grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 375. Saute onion slices in butter on medium heat for 15 minutes. Add sugar and cook until golden, about 15 minutes more. Add flour and cook 1 minute. Add beef broth and apple juice, heat to boiling and reduce heat to low for 10 more minutes. While soup simmers, place garlic toast on a cookie sheet and cook 5 minutes, turn and cook 2 more minutes or until crisp and golden.

Pour soup into 4 oven safe bowls or crocks. Top with a slice of Texas toast and Parmesan cheese. Place bowls on cookie sheet and put under broiler for 1 minute or until cheese is melted & bubbly.

Tips & Tricks:
The original recipe called for dry Vermouth, but since my family does not use alcohol I traded it out for apple juice. It turned out great, with a rich, full flavor! This recipe got a thumbs up from me and my daughter, but my son didn't care for it (he's never liked FO soup at all). The kids preferred to dunk their toast in the soup rather than having it as a broiled cheese crouton on top.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Cooking Allergy Free

This website is a great source people cooking around a food allergy or sensitivity. You can search the database for recipes avoiding allergenic ingredients. You can search by allergy, recipe, or view the entire list and sort out the ones that will work for your family's needs. They also have a discussion community to get information from others in the same boat. If your family has special dietary needs, it is a valuable resource! Check it out!

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Spaghetti Pie

This is my MIL's recipe, and it's a family favorite.

Yield: 8 Servings

8 oz spaghetti, cooked & drained
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1 broken egg
1/3 cup Parmesan cheese
8 oz sour cream
1 lb browned ground beef
1 can spaghetti sauce
garlic & oregano to taste
2 cups grated mozzarella cheese

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spread noodles in a 9x13 inch baking dish. Spread beaten egg over the top and sprinkle with salt, pepper, & Parmesan cheese. Layer ground beef on top of this. Season spaghetti sauce to taste with garlic & oregano, spread over ground beef and top with mozzarella cheese. Bake for 30 minutes.

Tips & Tricks:
I make this using leftover Pasta Alfredo instead of the spaghetti and omit the egg, sour cream, and Parmesan cheese. It turns leftovers into a brand new & delicious meal!

Friday, March 7, 2008

Beef And Beer Stew

Prep: 30 minutes
Cook: 3 hours plus resting
Yield: 8 servings

5 pounds beef brisket, cut into 2-inch cubes
Salt and pepper
1 stick (4 ounces) butter
4 pounds onions, sliced
6 tablespoons flour
One 12-ounce bottle dark beer
3 cups beef broth
3 pounds yellow-fleshed potatoes, such as yukon gold, peeled and quartered
1 cup milk

Preheat the oven to 325°. Season the brisket with salt and pepper. In a large, heavy skillet, melt 1 teaspoon butter over medium-high heat. Working in batches, add the brisket and cook for 8 minutes; transfer to a large Dutch oven and reserve the skillet.

Add 2 teaspoons butter to the skillet. Add one-third of the onions and cook over medium heat until softened; push to the side of the pan. Repeat with the remaining onions, then cook over medium heat, stirring, until browned, about 8 minutes more. Transfer to the Dutch oven. Add 3 tablespoons butter to the skillet, over medium heat; add the flour and cook, stirring, until the mixture is golden. Whisk in the beer, then the beef broth; bring to a boil, whisking until smooth.

Pour the sauce over the meat and onions and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Cover the pot and cook in the oven for 2 hours. Remove the lid and cook until the meat is fork-tender, 30 minutes. Set aside and let rest for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a large pot, place the potatoes in salted water to cover; bring to a boil, then simmer for 15 minutes. Drain and return to the pot. Add the remaining 4 tablespoons butter and mash. Beat in the milk and season with salt and pepper. Serve the stew over the mashed potatoes.

Tips and Tricks
To start with, I didn't take three hours to cook this and I cut the recipe down. I used about 2 pounds of london broil, fat trimmed off and cut into small cubes, then browned it in the butter and drained it. While the meat cooked I made the sauce, using half of an onion and the full amount of the other ingredients. Then I drained the meat and returned it to the pot, added the sauce, covered it and cooked it for about an hour. I also threw in some sliced carrots. The meat was nice and tender, so cooking it for three hours was not necessary. And since cooking the meat and the onions uses so much butter (I used Smart Balance), I didn't add any more to the potatoes. I also used Guinness in the sauce. I'm not a fan of Guinness (Read: it tastes like motor oil), but this sauce had a nice flavor to it. My mother-in-law, who is not a beer drinker at all, also liked it. This recipe could probably be adapted for the crockpot, but gravies in the crockpot tend not to thicken. So you would need to add the flour and cook the sauce on the stovetop.
Make It Healthier
Use lean meat. Use unsalted butter or trans-fat free spread.
How Kids Can Help
Measure ingredients.
Suggested Sides
steamed peas and green salads