My Favorites of 2012

Coz and I tried out a lot of new recipes in the past year.  Most of them were super tasty.  Some were less than spectacular.  Lucky for you, we only share the good ones!

banana applesauce bread

Delicious Banana-Applesauce Bread

I already posted the WordPress Stats for 2012, but I wanted to share some of my own stats; logical and otherwise.  Let’s start out with some logical, numerically based truths.  First off, we need to start putting up better pictures of the food we make because when those get published on sites like Foodgawker and Tastespotting, page views go through the roof!  The only image I’ve ever been able to get published on Foodgawker thus far was for Banana-Applesauce Bread, hence why it was the top viewed post of last year.  Natural sunlight mojo!  I even got an email from my sister who happened to click on a picture of some delicious-looking banana bread and it led to my blog!  She didn’t even know said bread was mine.  That was fun :)

More truth: Any time zero-calorie soda and chocolate foodables are combined, people will flock to it.  That explains my #2 viewed post being Diet Coke Brownies.  They were, in fact, delicious.

alfredo sauce healthy

Yum doesn’t even begin to describe this.

Last truth: My alfredo sauce will beat out any alfredo sauce you get from a can, jar, or restaurant.  Just saying. People must have realized it too because it’s been pinned like crazy on Pinterest and landed at #4 on the most-viewed list.  I’m working on a vegan version too, so look for it in the future!

I’ll stop giving you a story for each one now and just let you see the whole list.  Oh, one other truth though: CARBS.  ‘Nuff said.

Most Viewed Recipes in 2012:
1. Banana-Applesauce Bread
2. Diet Coke Brownies
3. Pumpkin Spice Chocolate Chip Cookies
4. Angela’s Alfredo Sauce
5. Vanilla Meringue Cookies
6. No-Bake Cheesecake Filling
7. Green Chili Chicken Enchiladas
8. Fajita Stuffed Chicken Poblanos
9. Hungry Girl’s Paella
10. Homemade Pizza Dough

I have no qualms with the list above.  Those are very delicious recipes indeed.  But you all MUST work your way through the list below.  These are by and far my favorite recipes of the last year.  #1 is the most-favorite-ever-I-want-to-marry-it dish and #10 is the hot-dang-this-sh*t-is-tasty dish.  As you can see, that’s quite a scale.  I’m a woman who appreciates a perfect marriage (or civil union? They’re the same, right?? NOT.) of flavor and texture and these dishes are exactly that. Please visit every single one and try them out!  It was so hard to rank them; they are all so magical.

bacon blueberry goat cheese salad walnuts

One of the most perfect combinations of flavors in a salad that I have ever tried!

My Favorite Recipes of 2012:
1. Curry Braised Lamb with Indian Spiced Sweet Potatoes and Rice
2. Bacon Blueberry Goat Cheese Walnut Salad
3. Inside Out Stuffed Peppers Meatballs
4. Agave-Lime Salmon
5. Pork Enchilada Soup
6. Peas and Pancetta Pasta Topper
7. Spicy Peanut Pork and Noodles
8. Lemon Curd
9. Angela’s Nut Bread
10. Havarti Ham and Veggie Frittata

Now, your mission is to try at least ONE of the dishes in my list above and comment with some feedback. Was it tasty? What would you change? Did it make you feel all warm and toasty and satisfied on the inside? These are things I want to know. Because when I know I make someone happy through a recipe, it makes ME feel all warm and toasty and satisfied on the inside!  YAY!

Upside-Down Almond-Fudge Tartlets

This Cooking Light Recipes boxed calendar is going to be the death of me. I can barely wait to turn to the next recipe every other day! The excitement and anticipation wreaks havoc on my impatient body. Well, not really. But it does entice my taste buds and gets me cooking things that I probably shouldn’t have in the house because it’s bad for my hips…. because that’s straight where it goes.

Luckily, it’s Cooking LIGHT and not Cooking LOADED. I can eat an entire one of these tartlets and still stay within my points for a day (I still get a lot of points). It’s completely worth it too because these are just fantastic! You can change up the nuts on top too. Don’t like almonds? Use pistachios, walnuts, hazelnuts or even peanuts. Let your taste buds be your guide. Just don’t let your taste buds to convince you to eat two of them like mine did. Tricky buds.

tart, tartlet, almond, fudge, chocolate, dessert

Upside-Down Almond-Fudge Tartlets (from Cooking Light)
Servings: 6
PointsPlus per Serving: 13 (or cut each in half for 7 PP per serving)

Ingredients

  • 1 cup coarse chopped almonds, toasted, 23 PP
  • 4 oz bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chocolate, 16 PP (I used what I had, which was 1 square bittersweet, 1 square unsweetened and 2 squares semi-sweet)
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter (I used crisco butter-flavored sticks for 19 PP)
  • 2.25 oz all-purpose flour (around 1/2 cup), 6 PP
  • 3 tbsp cocoa powder, 1 PP
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 2 large eggs, 4 PP
  • 6 tbsp sugar (I just used 8 tbsp organic cane sugar instead of the sugar and cane syrup for 10PP)
  • 2 tbsp golden cane syrup
  • 3/4 tsp vanilla extract

Directions

upside down chocolate almond fudge tart, dessert1. Preheat oven to 350. Set oven rack to lowest third of oven.

2. Coat 6 mini removable-bottom tart pans with cooking spray (CL uses a 9 inch round tart pan). Sprinkle almonds in the pans, distributing evenly. **If you need to toast your almonds, just put them in a dry pan over medium heat and toast until fragrant**

3. Combine chocolate and butter in top of a double boiler. Cook over simmering water until chocolate melts, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat; set aside. (I just put a smaller sauce pan on top of a bigger sauce pan with water and put the stovetop on medium. Then the chocolate/butter went into the smaller pan and melted that way. Worked like a charm!)

4. Weigh or lightly spoon flour into a dry measuring cup; level with a knife. Combine flour, cocoa, and salt in a medium bowl, stirring with a whisk.

5. Place eggs in a large bowl; beat with a mixer at medium speed 2 minutes or until thick and pale. Gradually add sugar, 1 tbsp at a time, beating at medium speed 2 minutes or until sugar dissolves. Add golden cane syrup (if using) and vanilla; beat on low speed 1 minute or until blended. Add chocolate mixture; beat 1 minute or until blended. Add flour mixture, and beat on low speed just until combined.

6. Pour batter over nuts into prepared pans, spreading evenly. Bake in lower third of oven at 350 for 15 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted into center comes out with a few moist crumbs (20 if you’re using the 9 inch tart pan). Invert tart onto a serving platter. Top with a scoop of ice cream if you like for some added deliciousness!

Need to serve these at a later time? Nuking them for about 25 seconds will do the trick. You can also try topping them with a scoop of ice cream. I’d recommend vanilla, butter pecan or coffee flavored. Mine stayed good in the fridge for almost a week, so yours should too!

Coz’s French Toast Strips

french toast

Sexy strips du toast a la francais. Oui oui!

I know I said that last week was “breakfast week” and then I posted only one breakfast recipe before socking you in the face with some lamb stock. How very rude of me. I should have given you at least ONE other breakfast dish! I’ll make up for that now.

Jess is utterly fantastical at breakfast food. I’ve mentioned before how she used to lure me out of my slumber with hot breakfast sandwiches and fresh coffee. These days, she’s been doing it with french toast sticks. I’m not complaining.

I don’t even remember the last time I had french toast at a restaurant. It’s just something that’s so easy to make at home that it seems silly to overpay for unhealthy versions of it at a local chain. I’ve seen some of the stats for restaurant french toast. SCARY. The Strawberry Banana French Toast at IHOP tops out at 1060 calories! That’s around 28-30 PP? FOR BREAKFAST?!?! Noooo thank you. In the Original Pancake House’s Sourdough French Toast, one plate is 1250 calories. Sweet Jesus! I feel like a clogged an artery just reading about it.

Well, this french toast is absolutely delicious and will NOT clog your arteries. It tops out below 250 calories and is sure to leave you satisfied. You can even put some slices of fresh strawberry and banana on it AND a dollop of Cool Whip Free and you won’t even be adding on any extra points. Take THAT, food chains!

french toast

Basking in the sunlight for a photo shoot before ending up in mah belly

Coz’s French Toast Strips
Servings: 2 (8 strips total)
PointsPlus per Serving: 6

Ingredients

  • 4 slices of your favorite 2 PP bread (I use Meijer Organics Multigrain), 9 PP
  • 1 egg, 2 PP
  • 2 egg whites, 1 PP
  • 1 tbsp soy milk
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • cooking spray

Directions

1. Whisk together all ingredients except the bread in a large bowl (because you need the space on the bottom to fit a slice of bread). Get a non-stick skillet or panini pan heated up to right above medium low.

2. Dip your first piece of bread into the mixture and let it sit for a minute to soak up the flavor. Spray the pan with cooking spray and then put bread on. Cook about 1 minute each side. Repeat with other remaining slices. Cut each finished slice into four strips. Top with some sugar-free syrup (around 1 PP per 1/4 cup) and a sprinkle of powdered sugar or coconut flakes and enjoy!

Homemade Lamb Stock

Last night I shattered poor Mary’s heart when I turned her little lamb’s leg into soup stock.

That was probably a bit morbid and overly dramatic.  I apologize to those of you who choose not to eat meat for political reasons.  But damn, that lamb was tasty.

When I buy something like a lamb leg, I do my absolute best not to waste any bit of it.  It’s pretty expensive, first off, and it’s delicious too, so why would I want to waste any?  Usually I buy a leg when it’s on sale and then cut the meat into 8-oz portions and stick them in the freezer.  The first time I did this, I knew I didn’t want to just throw away the bone.  I mean, that’s a big bone!  And it’s FULL of flavor.  So I looked up a few recipes for some inspiration and made my very first batch of homemade stock that night.

I used that first batch of lamb stock to make Italian Chicken Noodle Soup.  Wow, was it good!  The second time I made lamb stock (this is only the third time I’ve bought a leg of lamb.  I make it last.)  I used it to make a Lamb Kale and White Bean Soup.  I’ll be sharing the recipe for that later this month.  You absolutely must try it.  It’s divine.

In case you haven’t tasted lamb before, here’s a lame attempt at describing the flavor: It’s meaty, but almost sweet in a nutty kind of way.  It’s rich and tastes slightly creamy when it’s cooked properly.  Jess says it’s a sensual meat; the “lavender” of meat.  It’s a flavor that works perfectly with certain spices like mint, cumin and masala or rosemary and garlic, but you can’t just throw it in a pan and expect it to cook up like a steak with some rub.  Well, maybe you can, but I haven’t done that.  It seems disrespectful.  I always have a plan for my lamb and now you will too!

lamb, stock, homemade, soup, broth

Homemade Lamb Stock
Yield: about 4 quarts
PointsPlus for whole Yield: 1

Ingredients

  • Lamb leg bone
  • 1 potato, cut in fourths
  • 3 celery stalks, cut in fourths
  • 1 onion, cut in fourths
  • 2 large carrots, cut in fourths
  • 4 garlic cloves, smashed
  • 1 tbsp sea salt
  • 2 tsp whole black peppercorns
  • 1 tbsp whole dried thai chilis (optional)
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 4 quarts water

Directions

1. Put all ingredients into a stock pot, bring to a boil for 3 minutes and then turn down to low for about 4 hours.  Or you could just put it all in a crockpot and put it on low for 6-8 hours.

2. Once it’s done cooking, throw away (or somehow use) all the solid ingredients and strain the stock into a container until you are ready to use.  It can be refrigerated or frozen.

This can be applied to any bone, really.  If you have a roaster chicken that you haven’t cooked yet, you can use the bones in this rather than the lamb.  You can do the same with some beef bones too.  I wouldn’t use this recipe for fish stock, though.  I haven’t made that yet, so I can’t attest to this being the proper procedure and/or flavors.

Have you ever made your own stock?  How did you do it?

Sweet Potato Hashbrowns

sweet potato, breakfast, hash browns, breakfast potatoes

Oh so sweet

Breakfast is easily one of my favorite meals of the day, but only when it’s done right. Like most people, I can live with a bowl of cereal and a piece of fruit and then go about my day if I have to, but I’d always rather have something homemade. The only thing that frustrates me about breakfast is the monotony that we’ve settled for! Eggs, bacon, pancakes, cereal, rinse, repeat. Sure, there’s a little more differentiation than that, but it sure feels like there isn’t sometimes.

In order to break up that monotony, I try using ingredients that aren’t normally found on a breakfast menu. I’ve already posted some delicious recipes using wonton wrappers, salad fixings and polenta, but I definitely need to bulk up that section of my recipe index! Here are some examples of different, delicious breakfast foods that I’ve been enjoying lately:

Giardiniera and veggie-cheese omelets
Vanilla chai pancakes (cooked in coconut oil.  YUM.)
– Sweet potato hashbrowns

All these things are extremely yummy and satisfy that need for change. The recipe I’m sharing with you today is for my sweet potato hashbrowns. I’ve been making them for a couple years now, ever since we had run out of regular potatoes and I was craving some hashbrowns. We mash them, soufflé them, bake them, French fry them and turn them into hummus, so why not turn them into hashbrowns as well? I made them for my parents on Christmas Eve morning and they went bonkers. I think they forgot how well the natural sweetness of sweet potatoes lends itself to savory dishes.

I’m actually going to share two variations. One is low-sodium and includes onions and the other is just well spiced and doesn’t have onions. At least one of them is sure to please anyone in your household who likes sweet potatoes!

sweet potato, breakfast, hash browns, breakfast potatoes

Jess took these photos. She calls this one “sweet hash”…. :)

Simple Sweet Potato Hashbrowns
Servings: 4
PointsPlus per Serving: 3

Ingredients

  • 1 large sweet potato, 8 PP
  • 2 tbsp light butter/margarine, 4 PP
  • salt
  • pepper
  • garlic powder
  • onion powder
  • paprika

OR A LOW-SODIUM VERSION WITH ONIONS

  • 1 large sweet potato, 8 PP
  • 1/2 medium onion
  • crushed red pepper or chili powder
  • 2 tbsp light butter/margarine, 4 PP

Directions
1. Get a bowl of warm water.  As you dice up your sweet potato, throw it into the bowl with water.  Letting them soak in the water for a little bit as you are preparing everything will soften them up just enough.  Chop up your onions and set them aside (not in the water).

2. Warm up a non-stick skillet or cast iron pan (my preference).  Once it gets to a medium heat, put in the butter and let it melt.  If you’re doing the version with the onions, put the onions in and let them soften up just a little.  Then put in the drained potatoes.  Sprinkle your spices over top (I just do a sprinkling of each and use a little more of the flavors I really want in there), mix around the potatoes so they are well coated with butter and spice and then let them sit for about 4 minutes.  Once they start to brown up on the bottom, scrape them all over to one end and give them a flip.  Let them sit for another 4 minutes or so.  Do this until they meet your level of satisfactory softness/crispness and then transfer them to a plate.

**PLEASE NOTE** – If you are doing the version with the onions, you’ll have to stir them up more often so the onions don’t burn!

What are some other things that you eat for breakfast that you’d consider “different”?

Beef and Pinto Bean Chili

chili, beef, pinto bean, warm meals, soup, stew

January is one of my favorite months to make stews and chilis.  It’s the best way to heat up your body when you literally turn into a meat popsicle the minute you step outside.  Eat some chili to stop being chilly!  The word “chili” actually comes from “chile con carne”, which means “peppers with meat” in Spanish, which makes complete sense, so I’m going to stop myself from spewing out a bunch of ridiculous, stupid-American jokes about food vs. weather :)

In all actuality, I want to focus on warm soup/chili/stew recipes in January because you all are probably looking for some new ones to try while you’re trying to stay warm.  Here’s the first one!  I found it on the 2013 Cooking Light recipe box calendar that Jess got me for Christmas.  I love it!  I’m speaking about the calendar AND the chili.

Calendar = food porn.  Chili = delicioso.

I happened to have a bag of dry pinto beans laying around from an Aldi shopping trip from loooooong ago.  Seriously, I’ve had these beans for a YEAR.  They’re not my bean of choice, so naturally I didn’t think to use them. When I saw this recipe and realized I had every single ingredient in my kitchen (including the pinto beans!), I knew I had to make it!  So I did.  At 11pm on a Thursday night.  I soaked the beans for a day, then I stuck all the ingredients in the crockpot, put it on low and went to bed.  And at 3am, Jess woke me up because the delicious smells lured her out of sleep, lol.

I brought some in to work on Friday to share with my friend, Richard.  He is a spicy food fanatic like myself and he recently acquired this ridiculously spicy hot sauce.  The first time Richard tried it, his mouth was on fire, he felt like he was dying and laid on the floor curled up in a ball for about two hours.  He put a bit too much on his BBQ sandwich.  He also felt like a demi-god when he survived it.  So, of course, I wanted to try it!  What more perfect pairing is there than chili and hot sauce?  NONE!  (except maybe sea salted caramel and dark chocolate)  So we put about 1.5 tsp into a mere 1.5 cups of chili, stirred it up and ate it in the break room at work.  HOLY CRAP.  That sauce is HOT!  A sweet hot with a gentle, but voracious fire that makes the inside of your mouth sweat and then fires up your belly slowly from the top down.  But you know what?  It tasted great even when it was burning its way through my body and I now feel like a superhuman!  I WANT MORE.  I’m totally getting a bottle because it belongs in my kitchen.  And in this chili.

beef, pinto bean, bean, chili, soup, stew, dinner

Beef and Pinto Bean Chili (from Cooking Light)
Servings: 6
PointsPlus Per Serving: 8 (10 with topping) *See tips on lightening it up even more at the bottom*

Ingredients

  • 1 lb boneless chuck roast, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces, 18 PP
  • 1/4 tsp salt, divided
  • 2 tbsp canola oil, 7 PP
  • 4 cups chopped onion
  • 1/4 cup minced jalapeno peppers
  • 10 garlic cloves
  • 1 12-oz bottle beer, 5 PP
  • 1 tbsp paprika
  • 1 tbsp ground cumin
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste, 1 PP
  • 3 cups fat-free beef broth (like Better Than Bouillon Beef Base), 1 PP
  • 1 28-oz can diced tomatoes
  • 1 15-oz can pinto beans, rinsed and drained, 8 PP

Topping

  • 1/2 cup thinly sliced radish
  • 1 avocado, chopped, 9 PP
  • 6 tbsp fresh cilantro
  • 6 tbsp light sour cream, 5 PP
  • 6 lime wedges

Directions
1. Heat a dutch oven over high heat. Coat pan with cooking spray. Sprinkle beef evenly with 1/4 tsp salt. Add beef to pan; saute 5 minutes, turning to brown on all sides. Remove from pan.

2. Add oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add onion and jalapeno; saute 8 minutes or until lightly browned, stirring occasionally. Add garlic; saute 1 minute, stirring constantly. Stir in beer, scraping pan to loosen browned bits; bring to a boil. Cook until liquid almost evaporates (about 10 minutes), stirring occasionally.

3. Stir in paprika, cumin, and tomato paste; cook 1 minute, stirring frequently. Return beef to pan. Add broth, tomatoes and beans; bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer 1.5 hours or until mixture is thick and beef is very tender, stirring occasionally. Stir in remaining 1/2 tsp salt.

4. Ladle 1 cup chili into each of 6 bowls and divide toppings evenly.

OR JUST PUT ALL THE INGREDIENTS IN A CROCKPOT (minus the olive oil) AND COOK ON LOW FOR 4-8 HOURS.  heh.

**WAYS TO LIGHTEN THIS UP**
– Use half as much meat and this goes down to 6 PP per cup.
– Need some extra filler in now that you’ve take out some of the meat? Add a cup of diced zucchini and 1/2 cup chopped celery and your chili will be hearty and healthy and remain at 6 PP per cup.
– If you use half the oil and only 2.5 cups of onion (not adding in the celery and zucchini), it goes down to 5 PP per cup.
– Top with fat-free sour cream or leave out either the light sour cream or the avocado and you’ll only be adding 1 PP per bowl rather than two. (if you’re using the topping).

Mudslide Cookies

cookies, dessert, chocolate, mudslide

Click here for Jacques’ Chocolate Mudslide Cookies recipe from “Stylish Cuisine”!

Let’s get honest for a minute here.  There’s a solid week every month that women are allowed to be bitchy more abrupt than usual.  This coincides with all sorts of wonderful things like cramps, hypersensitivity, extended bathroom breaks, chocolate cravings, etc.  For the last three years, I barely had a period.  My body seemed to try to have one, but I just couldn’t pull it off most months.  Because of my unruly body, I didn’t have any excuse for my abrupt behavior… except that I was bitchy (What? NO!).

Good news, though!  My body is currently back to working correctly and my excuse for craving chocolate is back full force.  This is a dangerous craving for me.  I love chocolate on a regular day, so when I crave it on an extreme level, my dieting is constantly on the brink of disaster.  Last month, everyone and their mother and their sister and their bestest friend in the whole world decided to make cookies.  I’m not even joking.  EVERYONE MADE COOKIES.  And then they posted about it on Facebook.  Cruel!  Jess said she wanted to make some too and I was happy to participate in that.  I didn’t want to make any regular cookie, though.   My brain told me, “You want chocolate cookies with walnuts in them.”  I said to my brain, “Damn, that’s a great suggestion.”  So I made some.

chocolate, cookie, brownie, healthy, dessert

Click here for this Secretly Healthy Chocolate Brownie Cookies recipe by “Eliza’s Edibles”!

I found a recipe on the Cooking Light website for Mudslide Cookies and went from there.  They were perfect!  Not overly sweet (which is easy to do with chocolate cookies), perfectly crisp on the outside, but pillowy on the inside.  Best part?  Low calorie!  Granted, it’s still a CHOCOLATE COOKIE, so it’s going to have at least a few calories in it, but these aren’t over the top.  I made 30 ginormous cookies (as in the size of the palm of my hand) and they were only 4 PP each.  You could easily make cookies that were slightly smaller, and make 48 at 2 PP each.  Best part?  They satisfy my chocolate craving without making me want to eat seven in a row.  I get my momentary fill of chocolate after one!  That’s incredibly important  for me.  I have a tendency to go for chocolate CHIP cookies and then I eat four in a row just to get enough chocolate chips to actually satisfy my craving.  That’s not so helpful when you’re dieting.

Mudslide Cookies (slightly modified from Cooking Light)
Servings: 30
PointsPlus Per Serving: 4 (or 48 cookies for 2 PP each)

Ingredients

  • 2 oz unsweetened chocolate, 10 PP
  • 2 oz bittersweet chocolate, 9 PP
  • 1 1/2 tbsp organic unsalted butter, 4 PP
  • 1 1/2 tsp strong black coffee (CL used instant coffee granules, but I’m classy, so I don’t have those)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups all purpose unbleached flour, 17 PP
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, 4 PP
  • 2 tsp baking powder
chocolate, cookie, peanut butter, pb fudge, fudge, dessert

Click here for this PB Chocolate Fudge Cookies recipe by “Sarah Cupcake”!

  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 2 large eggs, 4 PP
  • 3 egg whites, 1 PP (CL used 1/2 cup egg substitute, but I didn’t have that)
  • 2 1/2 cups organic cane sugar, 52 PP (CL used regular refined sugar)
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts, 11 PP

Directions
1. Preheat oven to 350°.

2. Place butter, bittersweet chocolate, and unsweetened chocolate into a microwave-safe bowl; microwave at HIGH 1 minute or until chocolate is almost melted. (I melted my chocolate in a sauce pan on the stove since I have a tendency to over-nuke my chocolate.) Stir until smooth. Combine coffee granules and 1 tablespoon hot water, stirring until granules dissolve. Stir coffee and vanilla into chocolate mixture.

3. Lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flour, cocoa, baking powder, and salt, stirring well with a whisk. Combine sugar, egg substitute, and eggs in a large bowl; beat with a mixer at high speed 6 minutes or until thick and pale. Gently stir 1/4 of egg mixture into chocolate mixture; stir chocolate mixture into remaining egg mixture. Stir in flour mixture and nuts.

4. Cover baking sheets with parchment paper or use a silpat mat (BUY ONE. Do it now.) Drop dough by rounded tablespoonfuls 2 inches apart on prepared baking sheets; with moist hands, gently press dough into 1/4-inch-thick rounds (the pressing is optional.  I didn’t press and they turned out perfectly round). Bake at 350° for 15 minutes or until set. Cool 1 minute. Remove from pans; cool completely on wire racks.

When the cookies are done, they’ll be cracked on top and still moist in the center.  And magically delicious!  Hee hee!

Balsamic Beef and Veggie Soup

beef stew, balsamic, soup, dinner

Yummy yummy in my tummy!

You can tell it’s the winter season when the majority of my recipes are soups, stews or chili. Here’s more proof that it’s cold outside! Although not today… it’s a freaky 65 degrees, which Maxwell and I enjoyed with a long walk outside. But that’s beside the point; I still made some damn soup.

This one was thrown together when I went home during a lunch hour to check on our sick little poochie. I peeled/cut everything, threw it in the crockpot and came home to fantastical smells permeating from our apartment. If you follow these simple steps, you too shall experience such fantastical smells permeating from YOUR home. Ridiculously awesome, right?

Balsamic Beef and Veggie Soup
Servings: 4 (2 cups each)
PointsPlus Per Serving: 8 (or 4 PP per 1 cup)

Ingredients

  • 9.5 oz lean and trimmed steak, 12 PP
  • 5 oz frozen green beans
  • 4 cloves garlic, sliced
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 3 medium red potatoes, diced, 12 PP
  • 3/4 cup sliced carrots
  • 4 cups hot water
  • 3 tbsp tomato paste, 1 PP
  • 3 tsp Better Than Bouillon beef base, 1 PP
  • 5 tsbp balsamic vinegar, 2 PP
  • 2 tsp sea salt
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 1/2 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp black pepper

Directions
1. Chop up all those veggies and the meat and throw in into the crockpot. Then mix the tomato paste and bouillon base into the water and pour over the veggies. Pour in the balsamic vinegar and the rest of the spices. Cook on low for six hours and enjoy!

Yep, that’s the beauty of a crockpot.  No worries, just dinner!

Pork Enchilada Soup

Click here for this Chicken Tortilla Soup recipe from the “Cooking Classy” blog!

Thanksgiving weekend is upon us and I DID promise this recipe to a few of my facebook followers, so here you go! You can be thankful that I got it up amongst my busy days :)

This is a soup that is very easily thrown together and very easily modified to your own tastes. I prefer green enchilada sauce, but I’m sure that red enchilada sauce would work as well. This is also amazing as leftovers! I just top it off with some tortilla strips and I’m in heaven. I’ve made it with chicken before, but I think there’s something extra special about the pork flavor in here, so try it with the pork first if you can. And at 6 points per serving (and they are quite large servings; almost 2 cups worth!) this is definitely a soup you can enjoy as a dieter!

FYI, I recently downloaded a great app to my iPad called My Recipe Book. It lets you import recipes directly to your iPad! You can either import them from typical websites like AllRecipes or Epicurious, or you can “custom import” recipes from ANY website, including blogs! I started importing some of my own recipes using the app and I found that when I had the little dashes in front of my individual ingredients, it messed up the import and I needed to manually remove them. In order to make it easier for you all to import my recipes when using this app or similar ones, I’ll be going through all my recipes and removing the dashes from in front of the ingredients. Apps are about convenience, so I’d might as well do my part to make getting my recipes through this app TRULY convenient! You should all check it out. I love it!

Click here for this Chicken Enchilada Soup recipe from “The Family Kitchen”!

Pork Enchilada Soup
Servings: 6
PointsPlus Per Serving: 6

Ingredients

  • 1 tbsp olive oil, 4 PP
  • 8 oz raw pork loin, cut into bite sized chunks 8 PP
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp ancho chili powder or regular chili powder (optional)
  • 1 tbsp hot chili pepper, minced
  • 4 cups fat-free chicken broth, 1 PP
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 pouch/can green enchilada sauce, 4 PP
  • 1 tbsp dried cilantro flakes (or fresh!)
  • 1 cup corn, 5 PP
  • 2/3 cup uncooked white rice, 12 PP (replace with brown rice if you’d like. It’ll just take longer to cook)
  • 2 large jalapeno peppers, chopped, 1 PP
  • 2/3 cup mixed sweet peppers, diced
  • salt and pepper to taste

Click here for this Chicken Enchilada Soup recipe from “Amy Bites”!

Directions
1. Heat up a large soup pot with the olive oil over medium heat. Put in the onion, hot pepper (I like habanero!) and garlic and cook until fragrant (just a couple minutes at most). Then put in the pork. Sprinkle the chili powder and some salt and pepper over top. Cook until the pork is no longer raw and then pour the chicken broth and extra water over top.

2. Pour in the enchilada sauce, cilantro flakes, corn, rice, jalapeno peppers and sweet peppers. Bring to a boil and let it boil for a few minutes, then turn it down to medium low and let it cook until the rice is done. Add salt and pepper to taste.

3. Top it off with some tortilla strips and MAYBE some sour cream and/or cheese if you’d like and enjoy! Quick and easy!

You can add beans in there if you want, but with the rice and corn, your carb sector is covered. Basically, anything that you’d want to eat as a normal enchilada, put in the soup (except for the actual soft tortilla). You could do sweet potato, black bean and pork. You could try shrimp, zucchini and corn. It’s really hard to fail at this one. Just remember to put in the enchilada sauce! It really makes it.

Eating Healthy on a Budget: Steak Diane

We hooked up our cable cord to the TV before the Olympics started. Prior to that, we haven’t had regular TV for over two years.

My (somewhat) productive life is on the brink of destruction.

Create TV is just about the only thing we watch now, and we watch a LOT of it. There’s just so many cooking and travel shows that it’s as if we’re watching so much just to make up for all that we’ve missed out on for the past two years! Not good.

But there’s a silver lining. Julia Child dominates that station. On Sunday alone, I learned the joy of omelettes (especially when drenched in clarified butter), three different uses for focaccia dough, how to make chocolate cups, a delicious yellow cake with fresh raspberry sauce, Julia’s obsession with parsley garnish, steak au poivre and steak diane. Julia made steak diane in literally 5 minutes. I wanted to do that.

So, when Jess went to pick up a few things at the grocery store, I told her if she picked up some steaks, I’d make her steak diane for dinner. She picked them up and steak diane we ate! Granted, this is a different version than Julia’s because it’s not drenched in butter or cream, but this version was quick, healthy and VERY tasty. I simplified the ingredient list and I’m pretty sure you have everything you need in your fridge right now.

Don’t have sirloin steak? Use a different cut. The points might vary a little, but as long as you beat your meat down to about 1/2 an inch thick, it’ll work just fine. Don’t have shallots? Use garlic or yellow/white onion and it’ll taste just as good. Don’t have spicy brown mustard? Use some dijon. Don’t have any of the ingredients? Well, damn. It’s time for you to go shopping.

Here’s my perfectly portioned steak diane with a mountain of cast iron roasted veggies (carrots, onion and purple potatoes). And a cilantro garnish since I had no fresh parsley!

Steak Diane (my quick and easy version)
Servings: 2
PointsPlus Per Serving: 6

Ingredients

  • 8 oz lean sirloin steak or eye of round, trimmed of all fat, 7 PP
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp olive oil, 4 PP
  • 1 tbsp light butter, 2 PP (I used a coconut butter since I’m dairy-free now and it worked just the same)
  • 1/4 cup beef broth
  • 1 tbsp spicy brown mustard
  • 1-2 tbsp diced shallots

Directions
1. As Julia Child says “beat the meat to within an inch of it’s life”. Place the meat between two sheets of plastic wrap and beat it with a meat mallet or even a rolling pin until it’s about 1/2 to 1/4 inch thick. Then, rub half the olive oil and soy sauce on one side, flip it and use the other half of the olive oil and soy sauce on the other side.

2. Warm up a pan (I’d use a stainless steel one if you have it, but nonstick will work fine too). Once it’s around a good medium heat, add in the butter to melt and then put the steak in. It’ll need about 2 minutes on each side. Put the meat on a plate and set aside.

3. Whisk together the beef broth and mustard. Pour about 1/2 the mixture into the pan and scrape all the good crusty bits from the meat into the broth to flavor it even more. Add the shallots to the pan and saute for about a minute. When the mixture starts getting a bit thick, add more broth until it’s more of a saucy texture.

4. Put the steak right back into the pan on top of the shallots. You can also pour the juices from the steak plate back into the pan as well. Cook for about a minute each side (or 30 seconds each side if your meat is super thin), adding more broth if the sauce gets too thick. Plate right away, pour the delicious pan sauce over the meat, top with a bit of chopped parsley or cilantro and eat it up!

Why do I consider it to be a healthy dish for those on a budget? Because you can use a cheaper cut of meat! A delicious and cheap one is an “eye of round” steak. It averages around $2-$3 per lb. And a lb is 16 oz. If you’re like me and you try to only eat around 4 oz of protein per meal, you’re doing it right! Here’s the breakdown for the steak diane.

– Meat: $1.25 (for 8 oz)
– Butter, Soy Sauce, Olive Oil: maybe 75 cents total?
– Beef Broth: 25 cents
– Mustard: 10 cents
– Shallots: 50 cents

Total Cost: $2.85
Total Cost per Serving: $1.42

WIN!  Even if you eat all 8 oz yourself, it’s a RARE occasion to get a nice steak for under $3.  I haven’t seen that price at Texas Roadhouse in…. EVER.