Original and Practical Recipes. Inexpensive, Quick and Healthy.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Tuesday Tip: Super Bowl Party Menu Ideas

I love the pure American-ness of a super bowl party.  There is something for everyone: food, sports, beer, hilarious commercials, and ridiculous prop bets.  My friends and I have dinner every Sunday, but some Sundays outshine the rest a bit.  The Super Bowl Sunday SND is usually one of the best SNDs of the year.  As we prepare for our party, I thought I would supply you with some menu ideas and recipes for game day.

Avocado Fries
Jalapeno Poppers
Turkey Bacon Wrapped Dates with Goat Cheese

Buffalo Chicken Mac and Cheese (to be posted this week)
Macaroni and Cheese Pizza
Roast Beef Sandwiches
Chicken Sausage Gut Bombs
Sirloin Tips

Monday, January 30, 2012

Green Bean Salad

Green bean salad is one of my favorite salads. I decided to bring it to Sunday Night Dinner last night because I thought it would go well with the grilled cheese and tomato soup the guys were serving. This is a very quick and easy recipe. I am not including proportions for the ingredients since you can add as much or as little of each ingredient as you like. Unlike most salads, this salad gets better the more the dressing is absorbed, I recommend preparing and dressing the salad at least an hour before serving.

You will need:
Green beans
Mozzarella (either fresh or shredded)
Balsamic Vinaigrette

Step 1:
Cook the green beans in boiling water until al dente. They should be al dente after 6-7 minutes. Be careful not to overlook the beans.

Step 2:
Drain the beans and let cool.

Step 3:
In a large bowl combine the green beans with diced tomato, chopped basil, and the mozzarella. Stir in enough balsamic vinaigrette to lightly coat the salad and serve.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Low Fat Chocolate Pie

I served this pie for dessert at the dinner party I had on Friday.  I found the recipe on Cooking Light's website.  Not only is it low fat, it is made using pantry ingredients that you might already have.  Click here for the recipe.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Jam and Brie Phyllo Cups

Last night I had a few friends over for dinner.  One of my best friends designed the save the dates for the wedding, and I offered to make him dinner as a thank you.  He requested that I make Chicken Diablo, which I have already written about.  I also made the Spinach Artichoke Dip that I wrote about last night, these Jam and Brie Phyllo Cups, and a Chocolate Pie which I will post about tomorrow.

Phyllo cups are a great ingredient to have on hand because they are so versatile.  Last weekend I used them to make breakfast, in the past I have used them for desserts, and they can be used to make a quick appetizer.  I first learned this recipe when I was working for a catering company, since then they have become a staple at Graham Family events.

The total preparation time for this appetizer is only 5 minutes, and it only requires three ingredients.  You can use whatever jam you have in your fridge.  Last night I used orange fig jam, but in the past I have used apricot and raspberry.

You will need:
Frozen Phyllo Cups
Jam (I used Orange Fig)

Step 1:
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Step 2:
Dice the brie and place a cube of brie in each of the cups.  Then spoon about 1/2 a teaspoon of jam on top of the cheese.

Step 3:
Bake for 5-10 minutes.  The brie should be melted and the cups should be slightly browned.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Spinach and Artichoke Dip

This recipe is based off of the Artichoke Dip recipe that my Mom has been making forever.  That recipe is great because it requires so few ingredients.  However, over time I started to change up the recipe a little - adding whatever I discovered in my fridge.  I started adding goat cheese and spinach.  Then my sister discovered that if you top it with Panko it creates a crispy golden crust.  So the original recipe has evolved, and this is what we created.

Total time: 40 minutes
Serves: 8

You will need:
1/2 cup frozen Spinach, thawed and water squeezed out
1/4 cup Goat Cheese 
1 clove pressed garlic
1 can Artichokes
1 cup Parmesan
1 cup Mayonnaise (you may use low fat)
dash of Worcestershire Sauce
dash of Hot Sauce
1/4 Panko
Serve with crackers or pita chips

Step 1:
Mix all ingredients, except the Panko.  Place in an oven safe dish.  Cover with Panko.

Step 2:
Bake at 350 degrees for 40 minutes.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Chicken Potato Spinach Soup

My fiance has been fighting off a cold, so I thought I would make him soup for dinner.  I wanted to create a soup that is full of Charles's favorite vegetables.  I didn't have any chicken broth, or cooked chicken on hand at home, so I bought a cooked chicken and broth at Whole Foods.  Whole Foods also sells containers of already chopped onion, carrot and celery.  It is just the right portion for soup and saves a good amount of time - I thought it was $4 well spent.

Serves 6
Total Time 45 minutes

You will need:
1/2 cup White Onion
1/2 cup Carrot
1/2 cup Celery
1/2 cup diced Mushroom
2 tablespoons Olive Oil
1/4 cup White Wine
48 ounces of Chicken Broth (1 1/2 large cartons)
2 Potatoes (peeled and diced)
1 cup diced Chicken (cooked)
1/2 cup frozen Spinach (thawed and water squeezed out)
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/4 cup Parmesan Cheese

Step 1:  Heat the olive oil in a large pot.  Then add the onion, carrot, celery, and mushroom.  Then add the white wine.  Saute over medium heat until almost all of the liquid is absorbed.

Step 2:
Add the broth and then the potatoes, spinach, salt and pepper.  Heat until it is slowly boiling.  Let boil for about 15 minutes - until the potatoes are soft.

Step 3:
Add the chicken and the parmesan cheese.  Stir the soup, and cook for another 5 minutes.  Serve with some parmesan cheese sprinkled on top.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Chicken Tikka Masala

My sister sent this recipe to me.  I have no idea where it came from, but it is a great healthy recipe.  My fiance wanted it extra spicy so he bought a habanero pepper to add in.  It was extremely spicy - almost too spicy.  Habanero peppers are tiny - maybe 1/4 of the size of a jalapeno - but they are so much stronger.  Lesson learned - never add an entire habanero to dinner.  Even though it turned out spicier than I had wanted, it was very good.  I ended up adding a little more half and half to balance things out.  My sister makes this recipe exactly as described below and she loves it.  I served it with white rice, my sister serves it with naan (which you can buy frozen at Trader Joes).

You will need:
Marinade or 2.5 lbs chicken:
1 ½ cups non fat Greek yogurt
Juice of one lemon
2 teaspoons cumin
2 teaspoons paprika
2 teaspoons cayenne
2 teaspoons fresh ground black pepper
2 tablespoons minced ginger
1 garlic clove, minced
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon salt

24 oz tomato sauce (3 8oz cans)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 onion, diced
½ jalapeno, minced
2 garlic cloves
3 teaspoons paprika
3 teaspoons cumin
2 teaspoons cayenne
1 teaspoon black pepper
¾ cup nonfat half and half
½ cup cream

Step 1:
Mix all of the marinate ingredients together.  Add the chicken and let marinate for a least 4 hours in the fridge.

Step 2:
Cook the chicken under the broiler, allow it to get a little charred.

Step 3:
Sauté the onion in the olive oil until soft (7-10 minutes), then add the garlic and jalapeno and cook for one minute. Add the tomato sauce and spices and cook for 2-3 minutes, then add the half and half and cream.

Step 4:
Let the sauce cook at a low simmer for 30-40 minutes, then add in the broiled chicken and cook for an additional 15 minutes.

Nutritional Information:
Calories: 303
Fat: 16 g
Completel Nutritional Information

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Tuesday Tip: Greek Yogurt

Did you know that fat free Greek Yogurt has twice as much protein as other yogurts?  As I try to make better food choices, I am incorporating more yogurt into my diet.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Happy Pie Day

In honor of pie day I baked the Turkey Pot Pie that I made with 
Friendsgiving leftovers and put in the freezer.

Mini Breakfast Quiche

These would be perfect for a brunch.  I made them for Sunday breakfast because I was trying to be creative with what I had in my fridge.

You will need:
1 package Mini Phyllo Cups (found in the freezer section)
2 Eggs
2 tablespoons Milk
Artichoke Hearts
Goat Cheese

Step 1:
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Then place the phyllo cups on a baking sheet.  Chop the artichoke and place a small amount in the bottom of each cup.

Step 2:
Whisk the eggs and milk together.  Then pour into the phyllo cups, almost all the way to the top.  Then add a little goat cheese on the top.

Step 3:
Bake for 20 minutes, or until the egg is fully cooked.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

All About Cheese

Cheese is probably the most wonderful food in the world.  I could never ever be Vegan because I can't live without cheese.  Everyone I know loves cheese - my friend's niece even asked for cheese for Christmas (she was about 2 at the time).  My love of cheese comes through in my cooking.  I genuinely try to keep things pretty healthy, and one way I try to do this is by selecting cheeses carefully.  I thought it might be helpful to write about post comparing the nutritional information of various cheeses!

I found this great chart at http://www.fitsugar.com/Nutritional-Information-Popular-Cheeses-1000038

Cheese (1 oz.)CaloriesFat (g)Saturated Fat (g)Sodium (mg)Protein (g)Calcium (mg)
American (Slice)1058.85.54176.2154.6
Chèvre (Goat Cheese)1038.55.91466.184.5
Laughing Cow958.15.42306.8202.9
Monterey Jack1079.761806.7200
Mozzarella (Part-Skim)724.52.91766.9222.1
Mozzarella (Whole Milk)856.33.71786.3143.4

According to this chart Part Skim Mozzarella and Ricotta are the way to go.  This chart does not include the other lower fat options that are easily available. 

Once really important thing to consider is: How much is 1 ounce? One ounce of Parmesan, once grated is about 5 tablespoons - enough to make Spaghetti alla Rustica for 5 people.  While one ounce of cheddar might be only enough for a couple crackers. 

I try to use cheese thoughtfully.  I do not drown my food in cheese, and I consider which type of cheese is best for any particular recipe.  Parmesan and Goat Cheese are very flavorful, and a little can go a long way.  I also try to use part skim cheeses as much as possible.  Trader Joe's has a good selection of part skim cheeses.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Breakfast Nachos

It is a cold snowy day in Chicago today.  We considered going out for brunch, but quickly nixed that plan. So instead I made breakfast using whatever I found in my fridge.  We both really liked it, and I thought it was fun to scoop up everything and eat it with tortilla chips.

Total time: 20 minutes
Serves: 2

You will need:
4 Eggs
2 tablespoons White Vinegar
1 tablespoon Olive Oil
1/2 cup chopped White Onion
1/2 can Diced Tomatoes
1/2 can Garbanzo Beans
Optional: Hot Sauce
Mexican Cheese
Sour Cream
Tortilla Chips

Step 1:
Heat the olive oil in a large skillet.  Add the onions, and saute for 3-4 minutes until they are slightly browned.  Then add the tomatoes and beans.  If you like, add hot sauce.  Keep over medium heat.

Step 2:
Poach the eggs.  Add 2 inches of water to a skillet, add 2 tablespoons vinegar and bring to a slow boil.  Then crack an egg into a small bowl - make sure the yolk is not broken otherwise this will not work.  Once the water has boiled, lower the egg gently into the water.  If the egg white spreads out a lot you can pull it together with a spoon.  Repeat putting up to 4 eggs in one pan.  After 2 minutes carefully make sure the egg is not stuck to the bottom of the pan and roll the egg over.  Cook for 3-4 minutes total depending on how runny you like your eggs.

Step 3:
Assemble.  Scoop a few spoonfuls of the onion, tomato, bean mixture onto a plate.  Place 2 poached eggs on top.  Then top the eggs with some mexican cheese and a dollop of sour cream.  Serve with tortilla chips on the side.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Chicken and Ricotta Ravioli

I think ravioli is one of the most fantastic foods on earth.  Making ravioli from scratch is time consuming, and requires special tools that I do not own.  I found a way around this by purchasing fresh lasagna sheets, and using them to make ravioli.  This eliminates the most time consuming part of the process.  These ravioli can be made in about 45 minutes, and taste just as good as ravioli made completely from scratch.

You can use this ravioli technique to make any type of ravioli you like.  I had leftover chicken in my fridge so I decided to make chicken and ricotta ravioli.

You will need:
1 cup finely diced Chicken
1/2 cup shredded Mozzarella
1/4 cup finely chopped Spinach
1 egg
1 cup Ricotta Cheese (you can use part skim)
dash of Salt and Pepper
1 package fresh Lasagna Sheets (must be fresh pasta - can be found at Whole Foods)
Flour to dust countertop to prevent pasta from sticking
Serves 4

Step 1
Combine the chicken, mozzarella, spinach, egg, ricotta, salt and pepper in a bowl.

Step 2
Carefully remove the lasagna sheets from the packaging. Take 1 sheet and run it under hot water for 20 seconds or so. You want any flour (used to prevent the sheets from sticking together) to wash off, and you want the pasta to get sticky again. Once the pasta is sticky, place it on the floured counter top.

Step 3
Assemble the ravioli. Place teaspoons of the filling 2 inches apart and 1 inch from the edges. Then fold the pasta over. Cut in between the raviolis. Press the edges with your fingers, removing any air bubbles, and then seal edges with a fork.

Step 4
You can either freeze the ravioli - or cook it. Cook in boiling water for about 3 minutes or until the ravioli floats. While the ravioli is cooking, combine equal parts butter and brown sugar until just melted. Top the cooked ravioli with the brown sugar sauce and a sprinkle of parmesan.

Note: I served this ravioli with the sauce from the Spaghetti Alla Rustica.  The only change I made is that I chopped the onions more finely.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Spinach Salad

Alright, I am finally going to start eating better.  My favorite healthy meal is spinach salad.  I try to incorporate as many "Super Foods" as possible into my diet.  A Super Food is a food with lots of nutrients.  Cranberries, walnuts, pecans, and spinach are all superfoods.

I like to add 1/2 cup diced baked Chicken breast to salad because it makes salad more filling.  Sometimes I change up the ingredients, or the dressing so I don't feel like I am constantly eating the same thing.  I have found that the easiest way for me to eat a healthy lunch is to spend 30 minutes on Sunday putting together my lunches for the week.  This works for 2 reasons: I won't run out of time or forget to make lunch the night before, and making 5 lunches ahead of time prevents me from cheating and getting takeout instead.  When I make salads days ahead of time I am careful to separate any ingredients that would make my lunch soggy.  With this salad, I pack the mandarin oranges in a separate baggy, and keep a bottle of dressing in the fridge at work.  If you buy fresh spinach, these salads can be made 4-5 days ahead of time.

You will need:
Pre-washed Baby Spinach
2 tablespoons crumbled Goat, Cheddar or Blue Cheese
1/2 cup diced Quick and Easy Baked Chicken
Low Fat Raspberry Dressing

Plus any of the following:
Diced Apple
Mandarin Oranges
Caramelized Onions

Step 1:
Place a handful of spinach on a plate or in a plastic container.  Add your favorite toppings.  If you are bringing this to work, put the dressing, oranges and onions in separate plastic bags or containers and add to the salad just before eating.  This will prevent the spinach from getting soggy.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Chicken Tetrazzini

When I began blogging I asked my friends if there were any recipes that they wanted me to make.  My friend Caroline asked for Chicken Tetrazzini, a dish that her grandmother used to make for her.  I had heard of Chicken Tretazzini, but I had never had it before and I had no idea how to make it.  I did some research and found a few recipes online.  I ended up using Giada's recipe as a reference, but made lots of changes to make it healthier.  Her recipe involved 9 tablespoons of butter, 4 cups of whole milk, and a cup of heavy cream.  While I am sure her recipe is delicious, I am trying to keep things reasonably healthy so I found ways to greatly reduce the amount of fat.

I wanted to hold off on making Caroline's request until I could host Sunday Night Dinner.  I wanted Caroline to be able to try it, and I knew that it is a dish that serves a lot of people, which is perfect for SND.  So last Sunday everyone came over for Chicken Tetrazzini and the Golden Globes.  We had so much fun, and were so laughing so loud I am surprised by neighbors did not complain!

This recipe does take longer than my other recipes, because it calls for cooked chicken.  I baked the chicken the night before, which reduced the day of prep time to about 45 minutes.

Total time: 1 hour 45 minutes
Active time: 1 hour
Serves: 10-12

You will need:
4 cups diced Quick and Easy Baked Chicken
3 1/2 cups Milk
1 can Cream of Mushroom Soup
1 cup Chicken Broth
4 tablespoons Butter
1/3 cup Flour12 ounces sliced Mushrooms
1/4 cup White Wine
3 cloves garlic, pressed
1 pound Linguini
2 pinches of Nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon Thyme
1 cup Parmesan
1/2 cup Italian Breadcrumbs
1 tablespoon Olive Oil
1 greased casserole dish

Step 1:
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  In a large pot melt 3 tablespoons butter.  Then whisk in the flour.  Whisk until the butter and flour are completely combined.  Then add all of the milk and whisk until the flour and butter is combined.  Then add the cream of mushroom soup and the chicken broth.  Whisk together, then stir in the nutmeg and thyme.  Bring to a slow boil.  Let boil for about 5 minutes to thicken.  Then reduce heat to low.

Step 2:
Bring a large pot of water to a boil.  Add the linguini and cook al dente.

Step 3:
While the pasta is cooking, melt 1 tablespoon butter in a large skillet.  Then add the pressed garlic.  After 1 minute add the mushrooms and the white wine.  Saute until the mushrooms have absorbed all of the liquid.

Step 4:
At this point the sauce is ready, and the pasta should be cooked and drained.  Add the diced chicken and the mushrooms to the sauce.  Then add the pasta.  Stir together and then pour into the casserole dish.

Step 5:
Mix the Parmesan, breadcrumbs and olive oil together.  Then spread over the top of the casserole.

Step 6:
Bake for 20 minutes and then turn the broiler on to brown the crust.  Once the broiler is on the top will only take a minute or two to brown.  You want to cook the chicken tetrazzini just until it is hot, if you overcook it the pasta will absorb too much of the sauce and the dish will be dry.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Tuesday Tip: Use Cornstarch to Remove Oil from Leather

This isn't really a cooking tip, but I learned it as a result of a cooking accident.  My friend got peanut oil on her favorite leather boots while helping to deep fry a turkey.  She feared that the boots were ruined, but we turned to Google and learned to dump (not sprinkle, dump) a generous amount of corn starch into the stains.  The corn starch absorbed the oil.  You might need to repeat this process for a few days - but it works.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Bacon Mac and Cheese

This recipe is very similar to the Macaroni and Cheese Pizza.  It is very simple to make because the sauce doesn't need to be mixed in a saucepan before it is baked.

You will need:
1/2 cup Creme Faiche
2 cups Cheddar Cheese, divided
3/4 cup Mozzarella
2 cups Tubular Pasta
5 slices of bacon (or turkey bacon)

Step 1:
Chop the bacon and cook in a skillet until crispy.  Then place on paper towels to absorb the grease and set aside.

Step 2:
Cook the pasta according to the directions on the box.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrres

Step 3:
While the pasta is cooking, combine the creme faiche, 1 cup cheddar, and mozzarella in a large bowl.

Step 4:
Drain the pasta, and fold into the cheese mixture.

Step 5:
Pour the pasta into a greased baking dish.  Top with the bacon and 1 cup cheddar cheese.

Step 6:
Bake for 20 minutes.  Then turn the broiler on and cook until browned on top.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Nutella Ice Cream Cone Cupcakes

A couple of my friends are constantly feeding me ideas for the blog, which is so helpful!  My friend Zinni has a major sweet tooth and he asked me to make cupcakes made in soft serve ice cream cones.  He saw them on another blog and had never seen them before.  I took the idea and ran with it.  Zinni loves chocolate, so I figured I should make Nutella cupcakes.  I thought it would be fun to make these cupcakes look as much like ice cream cones as possible.

These cupcakes were very quick and easy to make.  The only issue is that they would be difficult to transport because they kept tipping over!

Serves 10

You will need:
2 Eggs
1 cup Flour
1 teaspoon Baking Soda
1/2 teaspoon Salt
4 tablespoons Nutella
1/2 teaspoon Vanilla
1/2 cup Milk
Soft Serve Ice Cream Cones
Multi Colored Sprinkles

4 ounces Cream Cheese (at room temperature)
1/3 cup Confectioners Sugar
1 tablespoon Milk

Step 1:
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Then mix all of the cupcake ingredients together.  Fill the ice cream cones with the batter.  Do not fill completely, since the batter will rise as it cooks, leave 1/2 an inch at the top for the batter to rise.

Step 2:
Place the cones in the oven.  They might fit in the oven rack.  Bake for 25 minutes.

Step 3:
While the cupcakes are baking, mix all of the frosting ingredients with a mixer until smooth.

Step 4:
Once the cupcakes are fully cooked, remove them from the oven.  Allow them to cool completely before topping with the frosting and sprinkles.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Nutella Pancakes

I know, I pigged out over the holidays, and I am getting married in less than 6 months, and I should probably go on a diet.  But.... not yet, ok?  Instead I am eating Nutella Pancakes for breakfast.  I promise I will hit the treadmill later - right before I eat a Gibson's steak for dinner.  In all seriousness, I will kick off some healthy eating soon - I need to fit into my prom dress from high school for a party next month.

These pancakes were not healthy, but they were so delicious.  I will definitely be making them every once in a while.  I added 2 tablespoons of Nutella, the Nutella flavor was there but it wasn't overwhelming, which was my goal.  If you really want a chocolate pancake, try adding 3 tablespoons of Nutella.  These could also be served with whipped cream on top.

I will be changing this recipe into a cupcake recipe in the near future.

Total Time: 15 minutes
Serves: 2

You will need:
1/2 cup Flour
1/2 teaspoon Baking Soda
1 Egg
1/3 cup Milk
2 tablespoon Nutella
1 teaspoon butter

For the frosting:
1 cup Confectioners Sugar
3 tablespoons 1/3 less fat Cream Cheese
1/2 teaspoon Vanilla
3 tablespoons Milk

Step 1:
Whisk the flour, baking soda, egg, milk and nutella together.

Step 2:
Combine all the frosting ingredients.  Whisk together.  I heated the frosting for about 30 seconds in the microwave just to warm it up a little bit.  I just didn't want to put cold frosting on my pancakes.

Step 2:
Melt 1/2 teaspoon butter in a large skillet (or on a griddle) over medium heat.  Then pour the pancake batter in the skillet using about 2 -3 tablespoons of batter per pancake.  Once bubbles form on the surface of the pancake, flip them over.  Repeat until all the batter has been used.  Add more butter to the pan as needed.

Step 4:
Serve the pancakes hot with the frosting drizzled on top.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Chicago Restaurant Week

Chicago Restaurant Week has been announced.  Over 200 Chicago area restaurants participate, and offer a 3 course lunch for $22 and a 3 course dinner for $33 or $44 dollars.  It is a great opportunity to try out new restaurants, as well as a chance to get a deal at some of the pricier places in the city.  Follow this link for more info.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Southwestern Stuffed Peppers

Sometimes I have trouble coming up with ideas for the blog, so I ask Charles to come up with something.  Last night he suggested stuffed peppers.  At the time I was thinking of making Italian style stuffed peppers, but then this morning I was reading Real Simple and I discovered a recipe for Southwestern Stuffed Peppers.  I did not use their recipe, but I was inspired by the idea and created my own version.

Total time: 1 hour
Serves: 4

You will need:
4 large Peppers, cut in half - or top cut off, seeds and membranes removed
1/2 Yellow Onion, chopped
2 Chicken Breasts
1 packet of Fajita Seasoning
1/4 cup water
1 box Mexican Rice
1 can Black Beans
1 cup Reduced Fat Mexican Cheese
1/2 cup Fat Free Sour Cream
2 tablespoons Olive Oil
Salt and Pepper

Step 1:
Prepare rice according to the directions on the box.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Step 2:
While the rice is cooking, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a skillet over medium high heat.  Coat the chicken with salt and pepper and brown in the skillet.  Once both sides are browned, reduce the heat to medium low.

Step 3:
Once the chicken is fully cooked set it aside, then in same pan heat 1 tablespoon olive oil.  Add the onions and cook until they have browned slightly.

Step 4:
Shred the chicken into small pieces and put in the skillet with the onions.  Then add the seasoning packet and 1/4 cup water.  Stir together and cook over medium heat for 3 minutes.

Step 5:
At this point the rice should be fully cooked.  Combine the rice, chicken, onion, and black beans.  Spoon the rice mixture into the peppers.  Then place on a baking sheet and cook for 30 minutes.

Step 6:
After the peppers have cooked for 30 minutes, top with the cheese and bake for and additional 5 minutes.  Then remove the peppers from the oven and serve with a dollop of sour cream.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Strawberry Vanilla Cupcakes with Lime Icing

My coworkers go nuts over these!  The cupcakes are a moist vanilla with chunks of strawberry inside.  The lime icing makes the dessert light and refreshing.  I am a chocoholic and I usually make desserts which involve chocolate, but last summer I decided to switch things up and make these cupcakes for my co-workers birthday.  These cupcakes were such a hit they are now referred to as "The Cupcakes".

This is based off of a food network recipe, which I have altered.  The vanilla cupcake base is a great recipe and you could add chocolate chips instead of strawberries if they are not in season.

The cupcakes in this photo are mini cupcakes - which I love making since they cook faster and serve more people.  I usually make a combination of mini and regular cupcakes so I use all the batter in one batch.

Total Time:  45 minutes
Serves:  9 regular sized cupcakes

You will need:
1 1/2 cups Flour
1 1/2 teaspoons Baking Powder
1/4 teaspoon Salt
2 large Eggs
2/3 cup Sugar
3/4 cup Unsalted Butter, melted
2 teaspoons Vanilla
1/2 cup Milk
1 pint sliced Strawberries

For the icing:
1 cup Confectioner's Sugar
2 tablespoons Lime Juice

Step 1:
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Line the cupcake tin with cupcake liners.  Stir the flour, baking powder, and salt together in a medium bowl.

Step 2:
In a large bowl with an electric mixer, combine the eggs and sugar.  Mix for about 2 minutes until the eggs are light and foamy.  As you are mixing, slowly add the butter and then the vanilla.  Be careful to heat the butter until it is just melted, you do not want to overheat the butter, or else you might accidentally scramble your eggs.

Step 3:
Slowly add half of the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients, while mixing with the electric mixer.  Then add the milk and the rest of the dry ingredients.  Mix until just combined.

Step 4:
Fill the cupcake tins until they are about 1/3 full.  Then add 2-3 slices of strawberries on top of the batter.  Then add more batter on top until the cupcake tins are 2/3 full.

Step 5:
Bake for 30 minutes or until fully cooked.  This can be tested by inserting a toothpick in the center of a cupcake, when they are fully cooked the toothpick will come out clean.

Step 6:
As the cupcakes cool, mix the icing together.  Add more or less lime juice depending on the consistency you prefer.

Step 7:
Frost the cupcakes once they have cooled completely, and top with a strawberry.  If you frost the cupcakes while they are still warm the cupcakes will absorb the icing.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Tuesday Tip: Baked Mac and Cheese

I have learned that the best way to make baked macaroni and cheese is to put it under the broiler.  I have found that if you bake it at a lower temperature for a longer period of time too much of the cheese sauce is absorbed by the pasta.  Instead, place a layer of cheese and/or breadcrumbs on top of already hot mac and cheese and place under the broiler for about 3 minutes.  Keep and eye on it the entire time it is under the broiler.  The result will be a crispy golden brown crust, and a saucy mac and cheese below.

Monday, January 9, 2012

BBQ Macaroni and Cheese

This weeks Mac and Cheese is inspired by Dinosaur Bar-b-Que in Manhattan.  Their mac and cheese is rich, creamy, and full of flavor.  It is topped with a thick crisp layer of cheddar cheese with barbeque spice.  It is some of the best mac and cheese I have ever tasted.

Determined to recreate Dinosaur's mac, I did some online research to try and determine the ingredients.  I was not surprised to learn that theirs includes 4 different cheeses - totaling to 2 1/2 pounds of cheese.  The reason why it is so creamy?  They use half and half instead of milk.

So the challenge was to create an equally tasty, but lower fat version of the Dinosaur Mac and Cheese.  I have made changes to the recipe, using Whole Milk instead of half and half, and a blend of cheddar and pecorino instead of 4 cheeses.  Another difference is that Dinosaur uses a blender to mix onion and green pepper into the cheese sauce.  I do not own a blender and decided to grate the onion and pepper instead.

Total time: 30 minutes
Serves: 8

You will need:
2 tablespoons Olive Oil
1/3 cup Onion, grated
1/4 cup Green Pepper, grated
1 clove pressed Garlic
3 cups whole milk
1/4 flour
2 cups reduced fat shredded Cheddar Cheese
1 cup shredded Sharp Cheddar
1/2 cup Pecorino Romano Cheese, grated
1 teaspoon Salt
1/2 teaspoon Pepper
1 teaspoon Dijon Mustard
1 teaspoon White Vinegar
1 teaspoon hot sauce
2 teaspoons BBQ Spice, divided
1 pound tubular Pasta
Step 1:
Cook the pasta according to the directions on the box.  Cook al dente.  Drain.

Step 2:
While the pasta is cooking, heat the olive oil in a large pot.  Add the onion and pepper and saute for 3 minutes.  Then add the garlic and cook for 1 minute.  Stir in the flour, and then whisk in the milk.  Bring to a boil then let simmer for 5 minutes, stirring frequently, until the sauce thickens.

Step 3:
Add 2 cups reduced fat cheddar and the Pecorino Romano to the milk mixture.  Stir until completely melted and then add in the salt, pepper, mustard, vinegar, hot sauce, and 1 teaspoon BBQ Spice.

Step 4:
Pour the drained pasta into the pot with the sauce.  Stir together.  Then pour into a greased casserole dish.  Top with 1 cup shredded sharp cheddar and 1 teaspoon BBQ Spice.

Step 5:
Place under the broiler until the top has browned.  This will only take a couple minutes, watch it carefully.  Serve immediately.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Favorite Chicago Restaurants

Here is a list of a few of my favorite Chicago restaurants.  For full reviews you can follow this link to my Yelp page.

Italian:  Gioco, Volare, Mia Francesca's, Quartino
Greek:  Athenian Room
Sushi:  Macku
Thai:  Panang
Bar Food:  Burger Bar, Farmhouse
Pizza:  Ian's Pizza, Bricks, Piece
Mexican:  Big Star, Fernando's
Brunch:  Southport Grocery, Kingsbury Street Cafe
Sandwiches:  Panes

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Nutella Granola Bars

My friends and I are currently on our way to Wisconsin to go skiing. I am able to blog from the road with my iPhone. Yesterday I decided that I should make some snacks for the road. My boss gave me a big jar of nutella for Christmas and I thought making homemade granola bars would be a great way to use up some of the

These were quite easy to make, and you could substitute peanut butter for Nutella if you like. Half of the ingredients are things you probably have at home. Other ingredients such as wheat germ, rolled oats, raw sunflower seeds, and sliced almonds can be found in the bulk aisle at Whole Foods. Those 4 ingredients only cost $3.40 total.

Total time: 40 minutes, plus time to cool
Servings: 16

You will need:
2 cups old fashioned rolled oats
1/2 cup wheat germ
1/2 cup sunflower seeds
1 cup sliced almonds
1/2 cup honey
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 1/2 tablespoon butter, plus more to grease pan
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup Nutella

Step 1: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spread out oats, sunflower seeds, almonds, and wheat germ in a baking sheet. Roast in the oven for 15 minutes stirring occasionally.

Step 2: While the dry ingredients are roasting, combine the honey, brown sugar, butter, salt, and Nutella in a medium sauce pan. Melt together over medium heat, stirring frequently.

Step 3: Once the dry ingredients have finished roasting, add them to the melted wet ingredients. Stir together.

Step 4: Pour the mixture into a buttered glass baking dish. Baked for 25 minutes at 300 degrees.

Step 5: Remove from the oven and let cool completely. Once cooled, use a sharp serrated knife to cut into individual portions. These can be stored in an airtight container for up to a week.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Roast Beef Sandwich with Brie and Caramelized Onions

One of the best ways to save money and watch what you eat is to bring your own lunch to work.  I try to think ahead and prepare several lunches on Sunday.  Making several lunches at once saves time, and it helps me resist the temptation to go out for lunch.  It is remarkable how unhealthy most lunches at restaurants are.  Even the options that appear to be healthy, like soups and salads, are often loaded with fat.  It is so much easier to watch what you eat when you are making your food yourself.

This sandwich is a little fancier than the typical lunch, but it is very easy to make.  If you are in a rush you could omit the caramelized onions.

Total time: 15 minutes

You will need:
Sliced Roast Beef (the deli counter at Whole Foods has excellent freshly sliced roast beef)
2 tablespoons Olive Oil
3 tablespoon White Wine
1 yellow Onion

Step 1:
Cut the onion in half vertically, and then slice so that you create long thin pieces of onion.  Then heat the olive oil and wine in a medium saucepan.  Add the onion and heat over medium heat until the liquid is absorbed and the onions have turned into a dark golden color.  Remove from the heat and let cool.

Step 2:
Assemble the sandwich.  Use 2 slices of bread, a tablespoon of mustard, a small handful of spinach, 2-3 slices of roast beef, some thinly sliced brie, and some caramelized onions.  Either heat with a panini press or in a pan, or serve cold.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Reduced Fat Carrot Cake Cupcakes

My friend Katie requested that I come up with a carrot cake recipe that is healthy enough for her to eat it everyday without feeling guilty.  I did my best, and this is what I have come up with.  I combined a couple recipes and made some substitutions to reduce the amount of oil used.  One thing that has a major impact on the nutritional value of this recipe is walnuts.  Nuts have a lot of fat, and including 1/2 cup of walnuts in this recipe will increase the amount of fat by 2 grams a serving.

It is important to note that you do really need to use freshly grated carrots.  Buying a bag of grated carrots at the grocery store is tempting, but they do not have the moisture that freshly grated carrots have.  It is a pain, but you need to buy carrots and grate them.

Nutritional information (per serving):
Cupcakes with walnuts and frosting: 8g fat; 187 calories
Cupcakes with frosting, without walnuts: 6g fat; 167 calories
As a muffin, without frosting and walnuts: 4.3g fat; 101 calories

Prep time:
Baking time:
Makes: 20 cupcakes

You will need:
3/4 cup sugar
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 large eggs
1 cup all purpose flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups freshly grated carrots
1 cup unsweetened applesauce
Optional: 1/2 cup walnuts

1/2 cup 1/3 less fat cream cheese, at room temperature
1 tablespoon butter
2 cups powdered sugar
1 tablespoon milk

Step 1:
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Then combine the flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt.

Step 2:
In another bowl beat the sugar, applesauce, oil and vanilla together.  Then add the eggs one at a time.

Step 3:
Using a mixer on a low speed, add 1/2 of the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients.

Step 4:
Add the carrots (and walnuts if you are adding them) to the remaining flour mixture.

Step 5:
Add the carrot/flour mixture to the wet ingredients and fold together until just combined.

Step 6:
Line a cupcake pan with paper liners.  Fill each cup until 3/4 full.  Bake the cupcakes at 400 degrees for 10 minutes and then reduce the temperature to 350 degrees and bake for 35 minutes longer.

Step 7:
While the cupcakes bake, make the frosting.  Combine the cream cheese, butter, vanilla and powdered sugar.  Stir until smooth.  Add 1 tablespoon of milk if you wish to have a thinner consistency.

Step 8:
Remove the cupcakes from the oven.  Test them by placing a toothpick into the center of a cupcake, it will come out clean if they are fully baked.  Let the cupcakes cook on a cooling rack before frosting.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Steak with a Mustard Glaze

Steak is a great quick dinner.  It only takes about 10-15 minutes to prepare, and can be paired with a variety of rubs and sauces.  I like the combination of steak and mustard so I glazed with mustard.

Sirloin Steak
1 cup Red Wine
1/2 cup Worcestershire Sauce
1/4 cup Soy Sauce
1 tablespoon Dijon Mustard (I used whole seed mustard)
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper

Step 1:
Combine the wine, Worcestershire sauce and soy sauce.  Marinate the steak in the mixture for 20 minutes to an hour.

Step 2:
Preheat the broiler.  Generously salt and pepper the steak.  Then sear in a large skillet over high heat for about 2 minutes a side.

Step 3:
Place the steak on a baking sheet and spoon a layer of mustard on top.  Cook under the broiler for about 3 minutes, then flip over and coat with mustard again.  Cook for another 2-3 minutes then check the temperature with a meat thermometer.  A medium rare steak will be 135 degrees.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Tuesday Tip: Basil

Buying a basil plant is less expensive than purchasing a small amount of fresh basil.

The plant below cost $2.99 at Whole Foods

The package of basil below costs $3.99 at Dominicks

Monday, January 2, 2012

Spinach Artichoke Mac and Cheese

Mac and Cheese Mondays has been going on for 5 weeks now!  This week I decided to make spinach artichoke macaroni and cheese, based on my love of spinach artichoke dip.  My goal was to create a meal just as delicious as the dip.

This recipe is very loosely based on a recipe for artichoke lasagna.  As always I changed some of the ingredients to create a lower fat version.  I decided to top my mac and cheese with a panko topping because I wanted to mimic the texture of eating artichoke dip with crackers.

Total time: 30 minutes
Serves: 4

You will need:
2 1/2 cups pound tubular pasta
1 1/2 cup Milk (I used skim)
1/4 cup flour
1/2 cup Reduced Fat Shredded Mozzarella
1/3 cup Parmesan
3/4 cup Ricotta (part skim)
1 can of artichoke hearts, chopped
2 big hand fulls of spinach
1/4 Panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)

Step 1:
Cook the pasta according to the directions on the box.  Drain and set aside.

Step 2:
Whisk together the milk and flour over medium heat.  Bring to a slow boil and let boil for 1 minute stirring constantly.

Step 3:
Add 1/4 cup mozzarella and all of the ricotta and parmesan to the milk.  Stir until melted.  Then add the spinach and artichokes.  Once the spinach has cooked add in the pasta and stir together.

Step 4:
Pour the mac and cheese into an oven safe dish.  Top with the panko and 1/4 cup mozzarella.  Place under the broiler for 3-4 minutes until browned.

This Week on TheKittchen

Here are a few recipes that are heading your way:
Spinach and Artichoke Mac and Cheese
Steak with a Mustard Glaze
Reduced Fat Carrot Cake Cupcakes
Roast Beef, Caramelized Onion, and Brie Sandwiches

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Chicken Diablo (Chicken with a Honey Curry Sauce)

This is a recipe that my Mom makes.  We had forgotten about it for a while until my friend Woody told me wanted to have the meal my mother made us when she was visiting me in Florence.  It took us a few days before we remembered what that meal was exactly.  Then we remembered how difficult it was to find ginger powder in Florence.  We went to two grocery stores and the market before we stumbled upon an Asian grocery store that had it.  Ever since we rediscovered the recipe I have made it every couple months.

This meal has been a big hit at Sunday Night Dinner.  It is quite easy to make and doesn't require many ingredients.  I use less butter than the original recipe calls for just to make it a little healthier.

Total active time: 30 minutes
Total time: 1 hour 15 minutes
Serves 4

You will need:
1 pound Chicken Breasts
4 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 sleeve of Reduced Fat Ritz Crackers (or plain breadcrumbs)
1 teaspoon dried basil
2 eggs
1/4 - 1/2 teaspoon curry powder
1/4 teaspoon ginger powder
1/3 cup honey

Step 1:
Preheat the oven to 300 degrees.  Then crush the crackers into a small bowl.  Mix in the dried basil.  In another small bowl whisk the 2 eggs.  Then coat the chicken breasts with the cracker crumb mixture.  Then dunk in the eggs, and then back in the cracker crumbs.

Step 2:
Heat 1 tablespoon butter and the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat.  Then brown the chicken.  Once the chicken is browned on both sides place it on a baking sheet and put into the oven.  The chicken should take about 40 minutes to an hour to cook depending on how thick the chicken breasts are.

Step 3:
While the chicken is baking, make the sauce.  Melt 3 tablespoons butter in a small saucepan.  Stir in the honey.  Let the butter and honey mixture bubble and reduce for about 5 minutes.  Then add the ginger and curry.  These are pretty strong spices so add them slowly being careful not to add too much.  I recommend starting with 1/4 teaspoon of each and then adding more to taste.

Step 4:
Once the chicken is cooked, serve with the sauce on top.  I always serve this meal with Rice Pilaf.

Nutritional Information:
Calories:  289
Fat: 18g
Complete Nutritional Information