Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Don't forget Kabobs!

Already, on several occasions this summer, my husband and I have cooked shish kabobs on the grill. They are so much fun to make and eat...and talk about EASY! Simply marinate chicken, shrimp or scallops for an hour. Another method for adding flavor is to apply a dry rub on beef, chicken or scallops. Then pick and choose your favorite vegetables, toss them in a tablespoon of olive oil and season with salt and pepper and start lining them up on soaked bamboo skewers. Grill them directly over hot coals for about 3-4 minutes per side and you'll be ready to eat in no time!

Some of our favorite combinations are teriyaki chicken with fresh pineapple, peppers and onions. Sirloin chunks that have been tossed in a seasoned dry rub are excellent paired with zucchini, mushrooms and cherry tomatoes. Also, jumbo shrimp and scallop kabobs would be a fun and delicious way to introduce more fish into your diet. For a meatless meal, skewer and grill a variety of your favorite vegetables. The possibilities are endless and limited only by your imagination!

Nutritional Information: The nutritional information per kabob will vary, depending on the type of meat, vegetables and marinades used. But whatever the combination, shish kabobs are typically low in calories, carbohydrate and fat because they are mostly grilled vegetables with a small amount of meat or fish. You can feel good about eating this meal, so enjoy and don't worry about the numbers.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Fresh Cherry Crumble

This is THE season for sweet cherries and my husband and I look forward to it every summer! Right now they're readily available in the stores, usually at the lowest price of the year. It always has been a tradition that every year at this time I make a sugar-free fresh cherry pie for my family. (If you've never had a cherry pie made from scratch with fresh cherries, then you've missed out. ) I love the taste but, even though it's sugar-free, it still must remain a once-a-summer treat because the carb and calorie count is too high. The culprit is in the crust. In this recipe, I've eliminated the high carb crust while keeping the best part - the yummy, sweet, gooey cherry filling! With only 18.5 net carbs per serving, it is a dessert I can have more often. It's very easy to prepare and, I guarantee, will be a huge hit at your family's 4th of July gathering.

Sugar-free Fresh Cherry Crumble
(Serves 8)

4 cups fresh cherries, pitted
2 tablespoons Splenda granular
2 tablespoons quick-cooking tapioca (dry)
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
2 teaspoons grated lemon zest or ¼ teaspoon almond extract

Crumble Topping:
¼ cup almond flour
¼ cup all-purpose flour
½ cup Splenda granular
1/8 teaspoon ground mace
¼ teaspoon ground ginger
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
Pinch salt
3 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cubed

1. Preheat oven to 375-degrees. Place the pitted cherries into a large bowl. Add 2 tablespoons Splenda, tapioca, nutmeg, lemon zest or extract. (Do not add the zest, if using almond extract.) Stir to combine. Allow to sit for 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

2. Meanwhile, place all of the dry topping ingredients into a large bowl. Add cubed butter and cut in using a pastry blender or two knives until butter has been incorporated and the mixture resembles small pebbles (do not overwork the mixture or it will turn to dough).

3. Pour cherry mixture into an 8-inch square baking dish that has been lightly sprayed with non-stick cooking spray. Distribute cherries into an even layer and sprinkle the crumble topping over the top. Bake in a preheated oven for 45-50 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool for at least 40 minutes before serving.

Nutritional Information per serving: 134.8 calories, 20 g carbohydrate, 6 g total fat, 2.7 g saturated fat, 20 mg sodium, 1.5 g fiber, 1.1 g protein

Original recipe by Kathy Sheehan, copyright 2010

How does this recipe compare to a traditional two-crust cherry pie? The difference will blow you away! If you thought that a fresh fruit pie is a good dessert choice, think again. For comparison, the nutritional information for 1/8th of a 9" cherry pie is 486 calories, 69.3 g carbohydrate, 22 g total fat, 5.4 g saturated fat, 344 mg sodium, 1.4 g fiber, 5 g protein.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Crispy Chicken Asparagus Bundles

I have made this dish a couple of times and really enjoy it. Not only do the flavors go together well, but it also looks so fancy on the plate! When you cut into it, the spiraling layers gives it an elegant appearance, even though it is extremely easy to prepare. The trick to a really crispy coating is the panko (Japanese-style breadcrumbs). It comes in regular or whole wheat so, if you want the addition of a little fiber, go with the whole wheat variety. I used minced fresh herbs from my little herb garden but, if you don't have fresh, dried will work just fine.

The recipe calls for the chicken breasts to be "butterflied." It's a simple cutting technique in which you slice into the thickest side and stop just before cutting completely through. When it is opened and flattened, it turns a small piece of meat into what looks like a large portion. Click on this link if you would like to see a short slideshow about How to Butterfly a Chicken Breast.

Crispy Chicken Asparagus Bundles
(Makes 2 servings)

2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (5 oz. each)
¼ teaspoon onion powder
¼ teaspoon garlic salt
¼ teaspoon black pepper
2 thin slices deli ham
2 teaspoons grated Parmesan cheese
8 spears asparagus, woody ends removed
¼ cup whole wheat panko Japanese-style breadcrumbs (or regular)
1 tablespoon chopped rosemary (or 1 teaspoon dried)
1 tablespoon chopped parsley (or 1 teaspoon dried)
¼ teaspoon garlic powder
¼ teaspoon black pepper
Pinch of salt
4 teaspoons pub-style Dijon mustard
Drizzle of olive oil (about 1 teaspoon)

1. Preheat the oven to 400-degrees. Spray a shallow baking pan with non-stick spray or spread 1 teaspoon of olive oil to prevent chicken from sticking; set aside.

2. Butterfly the chicken breasts and cover with plastic wrap. Pound with a mallet until about ¼ to ½-inch thick. Sprinkle one side with onion powder, garlic salt, and pepper. Place a ham slice on each and sprinkle with the Parmesan cheese. Lay 4 asparagus spears in the center of each and roll chicken around the vegetables; set aside.

3. In a shallow plate, combine the panko breadcrumbs, herbs, garlic powder, pepper and salt. Spread each chicken bundle with mustard and roll in the breadcrumb mixture. Place in the prepared baking dish (seam side down). Drizzle a small amount of olive oil over the top of each bundle and bake for 25 minutes. Serve hot.

Nutritional Information per serving: 239 calories, 10 g carbohydrate, 5.3 g total fat, 1.8 g saturated fat, 540 mg sodium, 1 g fiber, 38.1 g protein.

Original recipe by Kathy Sheehan, copyright 2010

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Harvest Tuna or Chicken Salad

I like tuna and try to eat it often to include more fish and Omega 3 in my diet, but something seems to happen to my creativity when I open that can so I end up making the same boring tuna fish salad with mayo, mustard and pickle relish. Today I challenged myself to come up with a different twist on my ordinary tuna salad and the end result was bursting with flavor! The idea of adding dried fruit came from a harvest salad I was recently served at a local restaurant (Rudy's in Cape Elizabeth). It adds texture and a hint of sweetness that blends perfectly with the homemade cherry-balsamic dressing. If you want variety, keep in mind that this recipe would be excellent with cooked chicken, as well. With warmer weather coming, I'll be glad to have another cool, main dish salad in my recipe box and this one is definitely worth repeating!

Harvest Tuna or Chicken Salad
(Makes 2 servings)

3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon cherry preserves or jam
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 tablespoons olive oil
5 cups romaine lettuce
2 tablespoons dried cherries, chopped
¼ cup dried apples, chopped
2 tablespoons almonds, chopped (or use slivered)
2/3 cup broccoli florets
½ cup cucumber or celery, quartered and sliced
5 ounces solid white tuna, drained & broken into small pieces (or ¾ cup chicken)

1. In a large bowl, whisk together the balsamic vinegar, cherry preserves, pepper and olive oil until well blended and emulsified.

2. To the bowl, add the remaining ingredients and toss until combined and well coated with the dressing. Equally divide among two serving plates and serve immediately.

Nutritional Information per serving: 382.5 calories, 33.4 g carbohydrate, 19 g total fat, 2.4 g saturated fat, 272.5 mg sodium, 5.4 g fiber, 19.2 g protein.

Original recipe by Kathy Sheehan, copyright 2010

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Loaded Chocolate Cherry Brownie Bites

These delicious, little cookies pack a serious chocolate punch and are loaded with good-for-you ingredients. When I planned out the recipe for these cookies, I was thinking about the chocolate-cherry flavors of a Black Forest Cake. Instead, I was pleasantly surprised by the outcome. The combination of almond flour, oatmeal, flaxseed meal, cocoa powder (with only a small amount of white flour) gives them the taste and texture of chewy, deep chocolate brownies. The flaxseed meal is a good source of fiber and Omega 3's and each cookie provides 133 mg of Omega 3! Honestly, if you like the taste of brownies, you'll love these cookies. With only 5 net carbs each, you don't need to feel guilty about eating chocolate anymore.

Loaded Chocolate Cherry Brownie Bites
(Makes 36 cookies)

½ cup all-purpose flour
¾ cups almond flour (or finely ground almonds)
1/3 cup uncooked oatmeal
¼ cup flaxseed meal
½ cup cocoa powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
3 tablespoons zero trans fat buttery spread (I use Smart Balance)
2 tablespoons light brown sugar
¾ cup Splenda granular (not baking blend)
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/3 cup skim, almond or light soy milk (original flavor)
½ cup dried cherries, chopped
2 tablespoons mini semi-sweet chocolate chips

1. Preheat oven to 375-degrees. Place parchment paper on a cookie sheet and set aside. In a medium mixing bowl, measure flours, oatmeal, flaxseed meal, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt. Stir with a fork to break up any lumps in the almond flour; set aside.

2. In a large mixing bowl, cream together the butter and buttery spread using a standing or handheld mixer. Cream in the sugar and Splenda (¼ cup at a time) until well blended. Add the egg and vanilla and beat well.

3. Add ½ of the flour mixture and beat until blended. Add the milk and continue beating with the mixer until combined. Add the remaining dry ingredients and, using a wooden spoon, stir until incorporated. Fold in the dried cherries and chocolate chips.

4. Using a small cookie scoop or drop by rounded teaspoonful onto the cookie sheet. Bake for 9-10 minutes (do not over bake). Remove cookies to a wire rack to cool.

Nutritional Information per cookie: 48.1 calories, 5.9 g carbohydrate, 2.5 g total fat, 1 g saturated fat, 45 mg sodium, 0.8 g fiber, 1 g protein. (Also, each cookie contains 133.3 mg Omega 3.)

Original Recipe by Kathy Sheehan, copyright 2010

How does this cookie compare to a brownie made from a mix? This recipe is significantly lower in calories, carbohydrate, fat and sodium. For comparison, the nutritional information for one brownie (1/20th of a batch made from a mix) is 170 calories, 23 g carbohydrate, 9 g total fat, 2 g saturated fat, 95 mg sodium, 0.5 g fiber and 2 g protein.

Added 6/15/10: After several days, when my leftover cookies were turning a bit stale, I used them to make a Fresh Cherry Chocolate Crisp and it was unbelievably delicious! Pit 4 cups of cherries and place into an 8-inch square baking dish. Toss cherries with 1-2 tablespoons of Splenda and 2 tablespoons quick-cooking tapioca and allow to sit for 5 minutes. Crumble about 6-8 cookies into a large bowl. Add 2-3 tablespoons of cold butter and blend with a pastry blender or cut in with two knives until mixture is the size of small peas. Spoon over cherries and bake in a 350-degree preheated oven for 50 minutes. Serve warm.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Seasoned Lentils with Vegetables

Tonight I found myself alone for dinner, without much motivation to cook. So, I looked in the refrigerator and started pulling out ingredients. The result was this flavorful side dish that can easily be the whole meal. It is complete with protein, vegetables and complex carbs. Lentils are high in fiber and are a good source of iron, vitamin B1 and folate. I simply added a piece of fruit for dessert and the meal was complete. (If you want a meatless meal, omit the bacon.)

The lentils I used were already fully cooked. This cut the preparation time in half! These convenient, prepackaged cooked lentils can sometimes be found in the produce section of your supermarket or at Trader Joe's. If you can't find cooked lentils, you can use canned that have been drained and rinsed or cook your own. They only take about 20 minutes to prepare, so you can still get dinner on the table in under an hour.

Seasoned Lentils with Vegetables
(Makes four ¾-cup servings)

2 cups cooked lentils
1 tablespoon olive oil
½ large onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 slices of ready-cook bacon, diced (or cooked turkey bacon, crumbled)
2 medium carrots, sliced
1 medium zucchini, quartered and sliced
1½ cups frozen broccoli florets, thawed
3 tablespoons fresh herbs, chopped (parsley, sage, rosemary, thyme, chives) or 2 teaspoons dried
1/3 cup beef or vegetable broth
1 tablespoon worcestershire or steak sauce
Salt and pepper to taste

1. Cook lentils according to package directions, except substitute low-sodium beef or vegetable broth in place of water for more flavor; set side.

2. Heat olive oil over medium high heat. Add onion and a pinch of salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until onion is soft and translucent. Add garlic, bacon and carrots and cook, stirring occasionally, for 3-4 minutes. Add zucchini, broccoli and herbs and continue cooking for another 3 minutes or until vegetables are tender-crisp.

3. Add cooked lentils, broth, worcestershire sauce and season with salt and pepper to taste. Cook only until lentils are heated through. Serve hot.

Nutritional Information per serving: 204.5 calories, 27.5 g carbohydrate, 4.7 g total fat, 0.3 g saturated fat, 9.6 g fiber, 11.7 g protein.

Original recipe by Kathy Sheehan, copyright 2010

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Peas & Carrots with Mint

It's time again to welcome the vegetables of early summer. Even though it is more convenient to reach for frozen, I can't resist the fun of shelling peas at least once a year. It's an annual ritual that really brings home the fact that summer is finally here! This is a great activity for kids, so get them involved, too. You'll want to cut the carrots into pea-size pieces so they'll cook in the same amount of time. Of course, if you want to get dinner on the table even faster, go ahead and use the frozen pea and carrot combination in your grocer's freezer for this recipe.

The mint in my little herb garden is already taking over (mint will do that, if you let it have it's way), so I had to think of a way to use it. The combined flavors of mint and peas are well known, so I gave it a try. The sprinkle of Splenda is optional, but I discovered that it enhanced and blended the mint with the vegetables even more to my liking. This was a beautiful and tasty side dish that I will be sure to repeat in the coming weeks.

Peas & Carrots with Mint
(Makes four ½-cup servings)

1 cup water, salted
3 medium carrots, quartered and sliced into small pieces
1½ cups fresh peas, shelled (or frozen)
1 teaspoon olive oil
1½ teaspoon zero trans fat buttery spread (I used Smart Balance)
¼ teaspoon lemon pepper (or to taste)
1/8 teaspoon salt
1½ tablespoons fresh mint, chopped (or 2 teaspoons dried)
1½ tablespoons lemon juice
½ packet of Splenda (optional, or to taste)

1. Bring water to boil in a medium saucepan and add salt. Add carrots and boil for 3-4 minutes. Add peas and return to a boil. Cook for an additional 3-4 minutes. Drain vegetables and discard water.

2. Return saucepan to medium heat and add olive oil and buttery spread. Add drained vegetables to pan and saute in oil for 2 minutes. Add lemon pepper, salt, mint, lemon juice and Splenda. Continue cooking until vegetables are cooked through. Serve hot.

Nutritional Information per serving: 84.7 calories, 10.4 g carbohydrate, 2.5 g total fat, 0.6 g saturated fat, 102.5 mg sodium, 2.6 g fiber, 2.9 g protein.

Original recipe by Kathy Sheehan, copyright 2010