Thursday, July 28, 2011

Oatmeal Cookies

My daughter has been begging me to bake some of my healthy cookies for days, so I was motivated to try out a new recipe. These oatmeal cookies can be made with raisins or mini chocolate chips, whichever you prefer. Unlike a traditional oatmeal cookie, my recipe calls for more oats and less flour which adds more fiber to the batter. The addition of almond flour to replace some of the wheat flour, plus the reduction of sugar cuts the carbs of a traditional recipe by half! These soft and chewy cookies are delicious with a cold glass of milk on a hot, summer afternoon!

Also, I wanted to share a product I discovered recently that appears to be a good store-bought cookie choice. The brand is called Who Nu and the cookies come in three varieties: chocolate chip, a chocolate sandwich cookie and a vanilla sandwich cookie. The numbers look pretty good and they taste great!

Oatmeal Cookies
Makes 30 cookies

3 tablespoon unsalted butter, at room temperature
¼ cup zero trans fat butter spread (I use Smart Balance), at room temperature
¼ cup dark brown sugar
½ cup Splenda granular
1 egg
1½ teaspoons vanilla extract
¼ cup almond flour (or finely ground almonds)
½ cup all-purpose or whole wheat flour
1½ cups old-fashioned oats (not quick cooking)
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ cup raisins or mini semi-sweet chocolate chips

1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Prepare baking sheets by lightly spraying with non-stick cooking spray or use parchment paper; set aside.

2. In a small mixing bowl, measure the almond flour, all-purpose (or wheat) flour, oats, baking soda, baking powder, salt and cinnamon; set aside.

3. Cream the butter, butter spread, brown sugar and Splenda until fluffy. Add egg and vanilla and beat well. Using a wooden spoon, stir in the flour-oat mixture into the butter and egg mixture and mix until thoroughly combined. Fold in the raisins or chocolate chips.

4. Drop the batter by rounded teaspoonfuls (or use a small cookie scoop) onto the prepared baking sheets. If desired, flatten each mound slightly with the palm of your hand. Bake for 10-12 minutes or until lightly browned on the bottom. Remove to a wire rack to cool.

Nutritional information per cookie with raisins: 60.2 calories, 7.8 g carbohydrate, 2.8 g total fat, 1 g saturated fat, 55.6 mg sodium, 0.6 g fiber, 1 g protein

Nutritional Information per cookie with chocolate chips: 71.6 calories, 8.3 g carbohydrate, 3.9 g total fat, 1.7 g saturated fat, 55.6 mg sodium, 0.7 g fiber, 1 g protein

Original recipe by Kathy Sheehan, ©2011

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Fruit Ice Pops

There's nothing new about this idea, but if it's been a while since you were a kid, you might need to be reminded how much fun popsicles are to eat! I recently purchased a Zoku Ice Pop Maker and have been creating elaborate fruit-based pops ever since. Juicy, sweet summer fruits pureed in a blender with a bit of water (sometimes mixed with milk or fat-free half & half for a creamy pop) is all you need to do. If you desire more sweetness, add a small amount of sugar, agave nectar, honey or Splenda and you're ready to freeze! You don't need a fancy pop maker, just use paper cups and crafts sticks and in a few hours you'll have delicious, low-cal frozen treats to cool you off.

Here are some of my favorite pops:

Pineapple Coconut: Puree fresh pineapple, water, a few tablespoons of pineapple or orange juice, 1 tablespoon of shredded coconut and a few drops of coconut extract in a blender. Freeze until firm.*

Caramel Apple: Mix together apple cider and a small amount of caramel syrup. Freeze until firm.*

Strawberries & Cream: In a blender puree fresh strawberries, water, and 1 teaspoon of sugar or Splenda. Set aside 3/4 of the mixture. Add milk or fat-free half & half to the remaining puree. Fill pop mold part of the way with the strawberry puree and partially freeze (about 1 hour). Fill the mold with the strawberry cream mixture and continue freezing until firm.*

*If using a Quick Pop Maker, some sugar needs to be added to the mixture for optimum release, although only a small amount needs to be added. I've had excellent results using a combination of sugar and Splenda in my puree mixtures.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Cherry Cheesecake Tapioca Pudding

It's that time of year again when fresh cherries are widely available and at the lowest prices of the season. My family loves them and I can't have too many recipes that highlight their juicy goodness. This is an old-fashioned one that reminds me of my childhood. Our housekeeper, Melvina, didn't make many desserts when cooking for my seven brothers and sisters, although on a rare occasion she'd make creamy tapioca to our great delight. Normally, tapioca pudding is made with milk, but this recipe is water-based which reduces the calories and fat. The fresh, light flavor is drawn directly from the cherries as they simmer and infuse the pudding. The addition of low-fat cream cheese and sprinkling of graham cracker gives it that distinct "cheesecake" taste. This is an easy dessert or snack that just screams "Summer!"

Cherry Cheesecake Tapioca Pudding
Makes 4 servings

3 cups fresh cherries, pitted and halved
1¼ cups water
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1/3 cup Splenda granular
3 tablespoons quick tapioca
Dash salt
2 tablespoons low-fat cream cheese, room temperature
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons crushed graham crackers, divided for garnish

1. Mix the cherries, water, lemon juice, Splenda, tapioca and salt in a medium saucepan and allow to sit for 5 minutes. Heat mixture on medium heat, stirring constantly, until it comes to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and continue cooking, stirring often, for 10-15 minutes until cherries soften and tapioca becomes translucent.

2. Add cream cheese and stir until melted and well blended. Remove from heat and add vanilla. Divide into 4 serving dishes and refrigerate until chilled.

3. Just before serving, sprinkle each with ½ tablespoon crushed graham crackers.

Nutritional Information per serving: 159.5 calories, 29 g carbohydrate, 3 g total fat, 2 g saturated fat, 96 mg sodium, 1.5 g fiber, 1.7 g protein.

Original recipe by Kathy Sheehan, copyright 2011

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Rhubarb Upside-Down Cake

When I was first diagnosed with diabetes, my doctor gave me a list of good and bad foods. I remember that unsweetened rhubarb was a "free food" and, in my despair at the time, I recall sarcastically joking that I could eat all the unsweetened rhubarb I wanted - lucky me! Rhubarb is one of the earliest harvests of the spring garden and is abundant in stores and farmer's markets right now. It's full of antioxidants, vitamin C, calcium and fiber, so it is an excellent and healthy choice, but usually requires a lot of sugar to counterbalance the extreme tartness. This simple dessert is a good mixture of sweet and tart. It's easy and quick to prepare and I highly recommend that it be eaten fresh and warm out of the oven.

Rhubarb Upside-Down Cake
Makes 6 servings

¼ cup light brown sugar, unpacked
2 tablespoons zero trans fat buttery spread (I use Smart Balance)
Zest of ½ of an orange
7 ounces rhubarb (about 5-6 stalks)
½ cup all-purpose flour
¼ cup almond flour (or finely ground almonds)
1/8 teaspoon salt
¾ teaspoon baking powder
1/3 cup zero trans fat buttery spread
1/3 cup Splenda, granular
1 egg + 1 egg white
2 tablespoons fat-free buttermilk (or skim milk)
½ teaspoon vanilla extract

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. In an 8-inch cast iron skillet (or 8" cake pan), melt 2 tablespoons buttery spread and brown sugar; stir to combine. Add orange zest and stir. Slice the rhubarb on the diagonal into 1-2" pieces and add to the brown sugar mixture and spread evenly over the bottom of the pan; set aside.

2. In a small bowl, stir together the flour, almond flour, salt, baking powder; set aside. With a handheld mixer, cream the 1/3 cup buttery spread and Splenda. Add the egg and egg white and beat until well combined. Add the buttermilk and vanilla and beat well.

3. Add the dry ingredients and beat until incorporated. Pour over the rhubarb and spread to cover. Bake for 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the cake comes out clean. Remove from oven and allow to cool for about 5 minutes. Turn out onto a serving plate and cool for another 15 minutes. Serve immediately. This cake is best served warm.

Nutritional Information per serving: 215 calories, 17.5 g carbohydrate, 14.3 g total fat, 3.5 g saturated fat, 238 mg sodium, 1.3 g fiber, 4.2 g protein.

Original recipe by Kathy Sheehan, copyright 2011

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Bananas Foster Quick Bread

The original Bananas Foster dessert was created by the chef at Brennan's Restaurant in New Orleans in the early 1950's and has been the most requested dessert item on their menu ever since! It is a mixture of butter, brown sugar, banana liquor, sliced bananas, dark rum and cinnamon that is set aflame then served over vanilla ice cream. This banana bread recipe adopts some of those flavors and results in a unique taste that is delicious for breakfast, as an afternoon snack or even for dessert. It's quick and easy to prepare because you don't need a mixer...just stir, pour and bake. If you don't have rum flavoring in your pantry, but happen to have dark or spiced rum in your cabinet, just use the real thing. In this recipe, it's not too overpowering at all, but gives the bread a subtle flavor that adds depth and richness. Because this is a reduced fat and carb bread, be sure to wrap any leftovers well or freeze it for later to reserve it's freshness.

Bananas Foster Quick Bread
Makes 16 servings

1 cup all-purpose flour
½ cup almond flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/8 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon cinnamon
½ cup oat bran or wheat germ
2 very ripe bananas, mashed (about 1 cup)
1 egg, lightly beaten
¼ cup sugar
¼ cup Splenda, granular
1/3 cup egg substitute (or 2 egg whites)
¼ cup unsweetened applesauce
3 tablespoons canola oil
1 teaspoon rum extract (or 2 teaspoons dark or spiced rum)
½ teaspoon butter flavoring
¼ cup low-fat buttermilk
3 tablespoons brown sugar, packed

1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Lightly spray an 8½" x 4½" x 2½" loaf pan with non-stick cooking spray; set aside.

2. In a large mixing bowl, sift together the flour, almond flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon. Stir in oat bran and set aside.

3. In a medium mixing bowl, mash the banana and add the sugar and Splenda; stir with a fork to combine. Beat in the egg, egg substitute, applesauce, canola oil, rum extract, butter flavoring and buttermilk. Add wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir until just combined but no flour is visible. Don't overmix.

4. Pour into the loaf pan, gently smoothing the top. Sprinkle the brown sugar over the batter and bake for 55 minutes, or until a wooden toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Transfer to a wire rack and cool in pan for 10 minutes. Remove from pan and cool on a wire rack completely before slicing. Wrap leftovers well to preserve freshness.

Nutritional Information per serving: 125.6 calories, 18.6 g carbohydrate, 5 g total fat, 0.5 g saturated fat, 157.6 mg sodium, 1.5 g fiber, 3.1 g protein.

Recipe by Kathy Sheehan, copyright 2011

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Ginger-Walnut Salmon and Asparagus

I checked out an excellent cookbook from the library that I'd like to share with you. It has so many recipes I've marked to try, this book will most likely be one I will purchase for my own collection in the future. It's the 8th edition of The New American Heart Association Cookbook (ISBN 978-0-307-40757-3). The recipe below is one from their seafood section and is quick, easy to prepare and delicious! As it bakes in the foil pouch, the topping thickens and becomes a sweet and tangy glaze. The walnuts add a satisfying crunch, not to mention even more Omega 3 fatty acids to a dish already generous with them. It is truly a heart-healthy main course!

Ginger-Walnut Salmon and Asparagus
Makes 4 servings

Cooking spray
12-20 medium asparagus spears
4 salmon fillets (about 5 ounces each)
1/4 cup light brown sugar, firmly packed
3 tablespoons honey or agave nectar
1½ tablespoons Worcestershire sauce (low sodium)
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 teaspoon grated ginger root
1/4 cup chopped walnuts
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon crystallized ginger (chopped)

1. Preheat oven to 450-degrees. Lightly spray four 15" x 12-inch sheets of aluminum foil with cooking spray. Place 3 to 5 asparagus spears in the center of each. Top with the salmon, skin side down.

2. In a small bowl, whisk together the brown sugar, honey, Worcestershire sauce, cornstarch and ginger root until the sugar is dissolved. Spoon over the top and sides of the fish. Sprinkle with the walnuts and crystallized ginger. Wrap the foil loosely and seal tightly (this leaves room for the heat to circulate inside). Place the packets on a baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes.

3. Being careful to avoid steam burns, slowly open a packet and check the salmon for doneness. If it isn't quite ready, reseal the packet and bake a few minutes longer. Open the packets carefully. Remove the skin if desired (tongs work well). Transfer the fish and asparagus to plates, top with sauce and serve immediately.

Nutritional Information per serving: 357 calories, 34 g carbohydrate, 10 g total fat, 1.5 g saturated fat, 118 mg sodium, 3 g fiber, 34 g protein.

Recipe from the book The New American Heart Association Cookbook 8th edition, Clarkson Potter Publishers, New York, copyright 2010. p. 159.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Stovetop Custard Sauce

This is one of my favorite comfort foods that goes back to my childhood. It's adapted from my grandmother's recipe that she called "My Float," which was most likely inspired by the "Floating Islands" dessert that was so popular many decades ago. It is a rich, vanilla egg custard (more like a sauce or eggnog) that my grandmother would make as a treat for my mother when she was sick as a little girl in the 1940's and 50's. This tradition was passed down, as I recall my mother making this same easy-to-swallow dessert for me and I later made it for my own daughter when she was sick. I can't taste it now without feeling surrounded by the love of these special women in my life.

Last week I developed a spring cold and, when my throat was dry and sore, I decided to remake this special recipe and sip it warm. It brought immediate comfort both physically and emotionally. I used a mixture of 1% milk, almond milk and a bit of mascarpone cheese to replace the whole milk called for in the original recipe, which reduced the calories and some fat. When I replaced the sugar with Splenda, the carb count was slashed by 75%. The taste is every bit as delicious as I remember. It can be eaten alone one soothing spoonful at a time, or serve it over fresh fruit. Orange slices are especially nice if you like the taste of creamsicles! Anyway you serve it, I'm sure it will bring you comfort and joy, too.

Stovetop Custard Sauce
Makes eight generous ½ cup servings

4 eggs, lightly beaten*
2 cups 1% milk
1 cup almond milk (Original)
1/8 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup + 2 tablespoons Splenda granular
2 tablespoons mascarpone cheese
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1. Beat the eggs in a medium bowl and add 2 cups milk. Beat with a wire whisk until well blended. Pour through a strainer to remove egg solids that did not incorporate and return mixture to bowl. Add almond milk, dash salt, Splenda and mascarpone cheese. Whip with a wire whisk until well blended. (Tiny specks of the mascarpone cheese may not blend completely, which is fine. They will melt into the mixture when heated.)

2. Boil only enough water in the bottom pan of a double boiler so that the top of the double boiler doesn't touch the water, but will hover above it. (If you don't own a double boiler, use two different size pans and nest them one inside the other, but be sure the top pan won't be sitting in the boiling water.)

3. Pour egg mixture into the top pan of a double boiler and place over the boiling water. Reduce heat until water is simmering and stir the egg mixture often for the first 5 minutes. Continue stirring constantly until mixture thickens slightly and coats the back of a spoon. This may take 10-20 minutes depending on the temperature of the water. NOTE: Do not overcook or boil mixture because the egg will separate and scramble! The temperature only needs to reach 160°F for eggs to be safely cooked.

4. Remove top pan from heat and allow to cool for 5-10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add vanilla and stir to combine. Refrigerate custard until serving time. If desired, the custard can be served warm, but it is usually served chilled either alone or over fruit. It is wonderful over fresh orange slices or any combination of fruit salad.

Nutritional Information per ½ cup serving (fruit not included): 96 calories, 6 g carbohydrate, 4.6 g total fat, 2 g saturated fat, 120.6 mg sodium, 0.1 g fiber, 5.2 g protein.

*To reduce the fat even further, you can replace 2 whole eggs with ½ cup egg substitute (such as Egg Beaters). This will change the nutritional information per serving slightly to 86.8 g calories, 5.8 g carbohydrate, 3.7 g total fat, 1.7 g saturated fat, 130 mg sodium, 0.1 g fiber, 5.5 g protein.

Recipe by Kathy Sheehan, copyright 2011. Inspired by my grandmother Gaga's recipe taken from her handwritten recipe notebook from the 1940's.

How does this compare to my grandmother's recipe? This recipe contains significantly fewer calories and carbohydrate compared to the traditional recipe that calls for whole milk and sugar. For comparison, the nutritional information for the same size serving of the traditional recipe is 168.8 calories, 25.3 g carbohydrate, 5.2 g total fat, 2.5 g saturated fat, 106 mg sodium, 0 g fiber, 5.9 g protein.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Spiced Up Carrot Muffins

What bunny wouldn't love these? Made with a pound of sweet carrots, these Southwestern-style muffins are a good source of beta carotene and provide a half serving of vegetables in every muffin! They are partially sweetened with agave nectar, which is similar to a light cactus honey. (It's not as thick as regular honey, but almost as sweet.) You can find agave nectar in health food stores and many regular grocery stores due to its increasing popularity. Another benefit of these muffins is obtained by the tiny amount of cayenne, which is known to increase metabolism. By using almond flour for half of the wheat flour in a traditional muffin recipe, the carbs are cut by over 30%! They're not too sweet and they have a little spicy kick from the cayenne, which makes them an excellent side with grilled meat, chicken or fish. I also enjoy them as a snack in the afternoon. Recently, I served these at a pot luck dinner and they were well received by my guests, each wondering about the unusual combination of flavors. No one could believe they were a "diet" muffin, and neither will you!

Spiced Up Carrot Muffins
Makes 12 muffins

1/3 cup canola oil
1/3 cup light agave nectar
¼ cup Splenda granular
2 large eggs
Zest of 1 lime
Juice of 1 lime (about 2-3 tablespoons)
1 pound grated carrots (about 3 cups)
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup almond flour (or finely ground almonds)
2 teaspoons baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon ground cayenne (or less, if you don’t like too much heat)
6 tablespoons chopped pecans or pine nuts, divided

1. Preheat oven to 350-degrees F. Spray a 12-cup muffin tin with non-stick vegetable spray or line with paper muffin cups; set aside.

2. In a large bowl, whisk together the all-purpose flour, almond flour, baking soda, salt and spices; set aside.

3. Using an electric handheld or standing mixer on medium-high speed, mix together the canola oil, agave nectar, Splenda, and eggs until well blended. Add the zest and juice of one lime and mix well. Add the grated carrots and mix thoroughly.

4. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and add the wet ingredients all at once. With a wooden spoon, stir until just moistened. Add ¼ cup of the nuts and stir. Divide the batter equally among the prepared muffin cups. Sprinkle about ½ teaspoon of the remaining nuts on the top of each muffin.

5. Bake in preheated oven for 22-25 minutes until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool in pan for 5 minutes, and then transfer muffins to a wire rack to cool. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Nutritional Information per muffin: 220.7 calories, 20.9 g carbohydrate, 14 g total fat, 1.2 g saturated fat, 293.5 mg sodium, 2.5 g fiber, 4.7 g protein.

Recipe by Kathy Sheehan, copyright 2011

Friday, March 25, 2011

Semi-Homemade Super Soup

I must admit that I eat a lot of canned soup. It's such an easy and quick lunch and, when I'm busy, opening a can is about as much time as I'm willing to take to prepare a meal. I want to share with you my tip for making ordinary canned soup much more nutritious and exciting to eat.

First, you will probably notice and agree with me when I say that soup companies can be pretty skimpy with their ingredients. Even though I usually choose a vegetable-based soup, such as minestrone, I'm always disappointed in the small quantity of vegetables included, usually far less than 1 cup per serving. Also, there are some brands in which potato is the main "vegetable." That just doesn't cut it with me!

My solution is to always have a bag of frozen mixed vegetables and another of chopped spinach on hand. Look around, there are many excellent mixtures available in your grocer's freezer. Chopped fresh cherry or grape tomatoes are another great vegetable add-in. Sprinkle in different herbs to enhance the flavor. Finally, keep canned beans in the pantry. Drain and rinse about a half-cup, toss them in the pot and you'll quickly and easily super-size your soup (but in a good way). If it's too thick, add a splash of broth until it reaches the desired consistency. The addition of extra vegetables and beans will provide more vitamins, minerals, anti-oxidants and fiber to what would have been a dull, lifeless can of soup! Not only that, but your portion size will be much larger and more satisfying. Give it a try -- it works for me!

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Roasted Celery Root with Prosciutto

"And the winner of the ugly vegetable award goes to....celery root!" Sometimes called root celery, knob celery or celeriac, this scary-looking vegetable is extremely low in calories, carbs and sodium while also being a good source of calcium and potassium. I've always been curious about this vegetable, but its appearance in the vegetable bin has kept me from picking it up, much less trying it, until now. My mission this past week was to try a new vegetable and, after looking over the entire vegetable section, it was either celery root or golden beets. The celery root won, but only barely.

After reading about it, I discovered that the taste is rather mild, like celery. It can be boiled, mashed or roasted, much like a potato. As a matter-of-fact, it pairs nicely with potatoes in a gratin or combined with boiled potatoes and mashed thereby cutting the carbs of either of these typically "potato" dishes by quite a lot. I found an intriguing recipe in the book In Season by Sarah Raven. She wrapped it in pancetta, which is unsmoked Italian bacon, and roasted it in the oven. Pancetta is high in saturated fat, so I made some adjustment and used very thinly sliced prosciutto. The flavor was incredible and turned the celery root into a spectacular side or main dish. I served it with a chopped tomato & fresh mozzarella salad drizzled with a balsamic vinaigrette. Honestly, this strange vegetable prepared in this way both surprised and delighted me and, more importantly, my apprehensive husband. You've got to give this one a try!

Roasted Celery Root with Prosciutto
(Makes 2 servings)

1 celery root (about the size of a large potato)
1 teaspoon olive oil
salt & pepper
½ teaspoon Italian herb seasoning
pinch of garlic powder (if not already included in the Italian seasoning)
4 thin slices of prosciutto

1. Using a sharp knife, remove the outer skin of the celery root. Slice it in half, then slice one-half of the root into 4-5 wedges (about ½" to ¾" thick). Set aside and reserve the remaining half for another use. Steam the wedges over boiling water for about 10 minutes, until beginning to soften.

2. Pat dry with a paper towel and place the steamed wedges in a medium-sized bowl. Add olive oil and season with salt, pepper and herbs. Toss to coat and allow to rest for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350-degrees.

3. Wrap each wedge in a slice of prosciutto. Place on a baking sheet and roast in the preheated oven for about 20 minutes. Turn the wedges and increase the heat to 375-degrees. Continue roasting for another 15-20 minutes until the celery root is soft when pierced with a fork and the prosciutto is crispy on both sides (you may need to turn them another time to achieve the proper amount of crispness). Serve hot.

Nutritional Information per serving (2 wedges, not including salad): 84 calories, 9.1 g carbohydrate, 4.2 g total fat, 1.5 g saturated fat, 287 mg sodium, 1.9 g fiber, 3.3 g protein.

Recipe adapted from one found in the book In Season by Sarah Raven.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Cheesy Creamy Nonfat Dip

I learned about a new Facebook app to help people wishing to follow and maintain a healthy lifestyle. It's called Health Seeker Game and that's exactly what it is, a game! You set weekly "missions" for yourself, such as incorporating more vegetables and fruit into your food plan. (That's my mission for this week.) Then the game suggests many easy ways to do this, but I only had to choose three actions I'm willing to complete. So, for this week, I'm challenging myself to replace one lunch or dinner with a salad, to choose a snack of vegetables or fruit three times and to try one new fruit or vegetable before the week is over. The fun part is that I can invite my family and friends to join the game, allowing us to encourage and challenge each other, send kudos or share progress. As I progress, week after week, I will be rewarded and move up level by level, so positive reinforcement and motivation are built into the game. It's free to play, so check it out!

My first action was to prepare and cut vegetables for quick and easy snacking. I usually don't like just munching on raw celery, but am quite willing when it's coated with a savory, creamy dip. The recipe below is my version of Ranch Dip. It's nonfat and very high in protein and calcium because the base is simply nonfat cottage cheese. It takes only minutes to prepare and tastes great! I hope everyone reading this post will join me to play the Health Seeker Game ( and invite all your friends to join, too.

Cheesy, Creamy Nonfat Dip
(Makes 1 serving)

½ cup non-fat cottage cheese
herbs & spices of your choice

I chose the following from my cabinet: onion powder, parsley, pinch of dill weed, dried chives, pinch of paprika, sprinkle of garlic powder, salt & pepper.

1. Place all of the ingredients in a food processor or blender and blend until smooth. Serve with cut vegetables.

Nutritional Information for the entire recipe (not including vegetables): 80 calories, 6 g carbohydrate, 0 g fat, 0 g saturated fat, 410 mg sodium, 0 g fiber, 14 g protein.

Recipe by Kathy Sheehan, copyright 2011

Monday, February 14, 2011

Enchiladas Your Way!

One cold afternoon late last week, I made a slow-cooking pot roast. I love doing this because it provides me with lots of leftover roast to make other meals during the week. A favorite "leftover" were these delicious beef enchiladas made better with the substitution of healthier ingredients. First, the roast was top round, which is extremely lean to begin with but made melt-in-your-mouth tender by the slow-cooking process. Also, I used reduced-fat cheese in place of full-fat. Another addition was the V-8 juice to extend the store-bought enchilada sauce and increase the amount of vegetables. The final result was every bit as wonderful as my favorite Mexican restaurant, but with many fewer calories, carbs and fat.

If beef is not your thing, then chicken or a firm, white fish (such as cod or halibut) is easily substituted. You can use leftover chicken or braise boneless, skinless breasts in place of the beef. If you like fish tacos, then I guarantee you'll enjoy fish enchiladas just as much. Be certain to select a firm, white fish that will be "meaty" enough not get overlooked when mixed with the other ingredients. Finally, if you want a totally meatless version, omit the meat and add more beans and possibly some chopped spinach. Anyway you prepare these spicy enchiladas, I'm sure they'll become an often-requested, go-to recipe to feed your hungry family.

Enchiladas Your Way!
(Makes 8 enchiladas)

¼ cup chopped onion
2 teaspoons olive oil
2/3 cup V-8 vegetable juice
¾ cup salsa (in strength of your choice)
½ pound left-over roast or blade steaks (chicken or fish can be substituted)
8 ounces enchilada sauce (1 cup)
8 corn tortillas
1½ cups shredded reduced-fat cheddar, divided
½ cup canned pinto or kidney beans (drained and rinsed)
Chopped cilantro (optional)

1. In a heavy saucepan, heat the oil over medium heat and add the onion. Saute until soft and translucent. Add the vegetable juice and salsa; stir to combine.

2. If using blade steaks, cut the steaks into two strips and discard the center membrane that runs down the middle. Place into the saucepan and simmer over low heat for 1½ hours. If using leftover roast, simmer for 25-30 minutes until the meat shreds easily. (If using chicken, place ½ pound of skinless, boneless chicken breasts into the mixture and simmer for 20-25 minutes. If using fish, place fillets into mixture and simmer for about 12-15 minutes or until flaky.)

3. Remove meat to a plate and shred with two forks. (If using fish, break into bite-size chunks.) Strain the sauce through a sieve and catch the liquid in a bowl and reserve. Mix the reserved liquid with the enchilada sauce; stir to combine and set aside. Add the solids to the shredded meat and cool for 10-15 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 350-degrees. Once the meat mixture is cooled, add ½ cup of the shredded cheese and the drained beans; stir to combine. Taste to adjust seasonings and add more salt, pepper, hot sauce, chopped cilantro or chili powder to your liking.

4. Place several large spoonfuls of the smooth enchilada sauce into the bottom of a 9" x 13" baking dish. Spread sauce to edges. Follow the directions on the package to heat the tortillas and make them pliable. (Keep the warm tortillas covered with a damp cloth until you fill them so they don't dry out.) Place a large spoonful of filling down the center of one tortilla, fold ends over filling and place into the baking dish with seam side down. Repeat with remaining tortillas.*

5. Pour and spread the enchilada sauce over the top of the filled tortillas being certain to spread until any exposed tortilla is covered with sauce (this will prevent the tortilla from drying and cracking during the baking process). Sprinkle the remaining 1 cup of cheese and chopped cilantro over the top and cover tightly with foil. Bake in preheated oven for 20 minutes. Remove foil and bake for another 4-5 minutes until cheese has browned slightly. Serve immediately.

*The beauty of this dish is that you can make only the number of servings you need, and then refrigerate the leftover filling, enchilada sauce, cheese and corn tortillas to make another meal later in the week.

Nutritional Information per 1 beef enchilada: 229 calories, 16.3 g carbohydrate, 9.2 g total fat, 4 g saturated fat, 559 mg sodium, 3 g fiber, 16.9 g protein.

Nutritional Information per 1 chicken enchilada: 184 calories, 16 g carbohydrate, 5 g total fat, 2 g saturated fat, 596 mg sodium, 3 g fiber, 15 g protein.

Nutritional Information per 1 fish enchilada (made with cod): 206 calories, 16 g carbohydrate, 6 g total fat, 2 g saturated fat, 553 mg sodium, 3 g fiber, 22 protein

Original recipe by Kathy Sheehan, copyright 2011

Monday, February 7, 2011

A Healthier M&M Cookie

I'm sending a Valentine's Care Package to my daughter who is away at college. She's very conscious about healthy eating, so she'll really appreciate these! The carbs and calories have been seriously reduced by substituting almond flour for most of the white flour and cutting out most of the sugar. Typically, a cookie base such as this has over 1 cup of brown sugar, but I get a similar flavor by adding a mere 3 tablespoons of brown sugar and 1 teaspoon of molasses. You will be amazed how the tiny bit of molasses adds a depth of flavor you couldn't achieve with Splenda alone. Also, the small addition of ground flaxseed meal boosts the fiber a bit and provides heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids, just what a heart needs on Valentine's Day -- enjoy!

M&M Cookies
(Makes 30 cookies)

1 cup almond flour (or finely ground almonds)
2/3 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 tablespoon ground flaxseed meal
¼ teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons dark brown sugar, packed
1 teaspoon molasses
¾ cup Splenda, granular (not baking blend)
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
2 tablespoons zero-trans fat buttery spread (I used Smart Balance)
1 large egg
1½ teaspoons vanilla extract
½ cup mini M & M chocolate candies (milk or dark)

1. Preheat oven to 375-degrees. If desired, line cookie sheet with parchment and set aside.

2. In a small mixing bowl, combine the flours, baking soda, flaxseed meal and salt. Use a fork to break up any lumps in the almond flour; set aside.

3. In a large mixing bowl, beat the butter and buttery spread, brown sugar, molasses and Splenda together with a handheld or standing mixer until sugars are well combined with the butter. Add egg and vanilla and beat for 1-2 minutes until well incorporated.

4. Gradually add the dry ingredients using a wooden spoon and stir until flour is well incorporated and a soft dough forms. Fold in the M&M chocolate candies.

5. Drop by rounded teaspoonfuls (or level small cookie scoop) about 2 inches apart onto cookie sheet. Bake until set and beginning to brown around the edges, about 8-10 minutes. Cookies will not brown much, so watch carefully and do not overbake. Remove immediately to wire rack and cool. Store in an airtight container at room temperature.

Nutritional Information per cookie: 73.1 calories, 6.3 g carbohydrates, 4.8 g total fat, 1.6 g saturated fat, 70 mg sodium, 0.6 g fiber, 1.4 g protein.

Original recipe by Kathy Sheehan, copyright 2011

How does this compare to a homemade Chocolate Chip cookie made from a traditional recipe? My recipe is much lower in calories, carbohydrates, fats and sodium. For comparison, the nutritional information for the same size cookie made from a traditional recipe is 160 calories, 21 g carbohydrates, 8 g total fat, 4 g saturated fat, 90 mg sodium, 0.5 g fiber, 2 g protein.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Apple Cheddar Muffins

My friend gave me The Colonial Williamsburg Tavern Cookbook and I've enjoyed looking through the recipes and recalling many fond memories of our trips to Williamsburg, Virginia. This particular recipe was inspired by one in the book and is a large savory muffin, with just a touch of sweetness from the apples. It makes a wonderful snack by itself, one would be great with a steaming bowl of soup or they would be the perfect side dish for a ham or BBQ dinner. As a variation, I made one batch with smoked cheddar and the smokiness of the cheese was reminiscent of bacon, although these are meat-free. Whether you use regular sharp or smoked cheese, these muffins will not last long when a crowd is around!

Apple Cheddar Muffins
(Makes 12 servings)

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup almond flour (or finely ground almonds)
1 tablespoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1 tablespoon sugar
3 tablespoons Splenda granular
2 large eggs
1 cup light sour cream
2 medium apples, peeled, cored and finely chopped
½ cup reduced fat sharp cheddar, shredded

1. Preheat oven to 425-degrees. Spray muffin tin with non-stick cooking spray; set aside.

2. In a large bowl, combine the flours, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and salt. Stir with a fork to break up any lumps in the mixture; set aside.

3. With a handheld or standing mixer, cream the butter and sugar until creamy. Add the Splenda and continue beating until well combined. Add the eggs, one at a time. Add sour cream and beat until combined. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and stir with a wooden spoon until just moistened. Fold in the chopped apples and cheese.

4. Divide batter evenly into the twelve muffin cups and bake for 18-20 minutes or until toothpick inserted comes out clean. Allow to cool in pan for 5 minutes, and then remove to wire rack. Allow to cool for about 15 minutes and serve. Store any leftovers in an air tight container at room temperature. These muffins are best eaten warm, so it is suggested to reheat in 300-degree oven for 5-8 minutes before serving leftovers.

Nutritional Information per muffin: 188.3 calories, 16.5 g carbohydrate, 11.2 g total fat, 4.2 g saturated fat, 120 mg. sodium, 1.6 g fiber, 6.1 g protein.

Adapted by Kathy Sheehan from the recipe "King's Arms Tavern Apple Cheddar Muffins" (page 157) in the book The Colonial Williamsburg Tavern Cookbook, published by The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, copyright 2001.

How does this recipe compare to the original? This recipe is lower in calories, has significantly fewer carbs, less saturated fat, less sodium, plus more fiber and more protein. For comparison, the nutritional information for one muffin made with the original recipe is 204 calories, 25 g carbohydrate, 9.5 g total fat, 5.4 g saturated fat, 166 mg sodium, 0.8 g fiber and 5 g protein.