Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Shredded Salmon Sandwiches with Onion & Apple

We recently had a potluck lunch for a colleague who is retiring.  I decided to go with a twist on the shredded BBQ pork sandwich, using salmon instead and adding onion and apple for extra flavor and crunch.

  • 5 frozen wild salmon fillets
  • 1/2 a bottle of Kraft Light Original Barbeque Sauce
  • 1/2 a jar Smuckers Sugar-Free Apricot Preserves
  • Whole wheat hamburger buns
  • Sliced onion
  • Sliced apple, with the skin on
  • Lettuce
  • In a small bowl, stir to combine BBQ sauce and preserves.
  • In a slow cooker, set on low, layer frozen fillets and top with BBQ/preserves mixture.
  • Cook for approximately two hours, until salmon breaks easily into chunks.
  • When ready to serve, layer lettuce on bottom 1/2 of bun.
  • Top with onion, shredded salmon, and apple slices, finishing with top 1/2 of bun.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Mini Vanilla Waffles with Grapefruit Ginger Syrup

A colleague recently shared her grapefruit bounty with us office-mates.  I love broiled grapefruit in the morning, but I wanted to do something different with these tasty yellow globes this time.  I stumbled on a package of 365 Everyday Value Organic Vanilla Mini Waffles at Whole Foods, and this recipe was born.

  • Preheat oven according to package directions for mini waffles.
  • Mix cornstarch and Splenda in sauce pan.
  • Whisk in grapefruit juice, grapefruit pieces, vanilla and crystallized ginger pieces.
  • Heat over medium heat, stirring constantly, until mixture thickens as desired.
  • Remove from heat.
  • Bake mini waffles according to package instructions.
  • Layer waffles and syrup as desired and top with a spritz of nonfat whipped topping.

Cocoa Muffins

After a hectic couple of weeks, a lazy Sunday morning cried out for some baking.  I decided that something chocolaty was required, but I wanted to keep it healthy.  I perused the pantry to see what ingredients I had on hand, and these mildly sweet, subtly flavored cocoa muffins were the result.
To be competely candid, I didn't think these muffins tasted that good.  I found them to be just so-so.  I have a pretty strong sweet tooth, so my reaction was probably due to their lack of sweetness.  I was sure that Mike wouldn't like 'em too much either.  However, he took a bite and proclaimed them "delicious!".  He really, really liked 'em.  He even proceeded to eat most of the batch.  Tastebuds are nutty things!

  • 1 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa
  • 1/2 teaspoon instant coffee granules
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2/3 cup of fat-free Miracle Whip
  • 2/3 cup of non-fat milk
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons of vanilla
  • Brown sugar for sprinkling on muffin tops
  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  • Spritz a 12-cup muffin tin with non-stick buttery spray.
  • In a large mixing bowl, blend all dry ingredients with a fork.
  • In a separate bowl, whisk together Miracle Whip, milk and vanilla, until well blended.
  • Add milk mixture to dry ingredients and stir just until mixed.
  • Fill muffin cups with batter to about 2/3 full.
  • Sprinkle with brown sugar.
  • Bake muffins for about 15 to 20 minutes.
This recipe was adapated from "How to Make Low Fat Cocoa Muffins" at

Friday, April 23, 2010

Entrepreneur Magazine: The 500-Calorie Smackdown

Are restaurants really and truly - finally - getting on board the "guilt-free fast food" wagon?

Read this to find out:

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

The Corn Dog, Re-imagined

My husband and I recently attended a super fun aviation event in Florida: lots of nifty airplanes, very cool people and carnival food.  You can't beat that!

Standard carnival chow always includes corn dogs, the ultimate walk-n-go food.  Since I usually try to eat healthy, I got thinking about 'doin' the dog' differently. The result is still hand-carry friendly; it's bulked up on nutrition but only has about 150 calories (when you add some ketchup).  Nice!

  • Spritz some buttery non-stick spray in a fry pan.
  • Cut the hot dogs in half and then slice them down the middle.
  • Pan fry them lightly in the pan.
  • While the hot dogs are pan frying, microwave the VitaTop for 15 second in the microwave.
  • Carefully cut it in half.
  • Remove the hot dogs from the pan, and re-spritzing the same pan, saute the VitaTop halves.
  • Layer mustard, ketchup and hot dog slices between VitaTop halves.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Nifty Noshing at the Airport

Gluten-free bars in a sundries shop at the Tampa airport
I didn't try these, but I though it was cool that they carried them.

If raw is more your speed, they've got that, too. :)

Don't be afraid to ask for what you want. I had never had a crab omelet before, so I wanted to try it.  But, I also wanted veggies.  So, I customized a veggie omelet, eliminating the cheese and adding crab.  Yummy!

Don't be afraid to try something fun and new, even if it doesn't totally fit with your diet or the portion is too big.  I added sweetened walnuts to 98% fat-free frozen yogurt, ate half of the container, and threw the rest away.  It took willpower, but I did it.  And, I got to enjoy something really tasty: a win-win. :)

Friday, April 16, 2010

Springs Preserve Cafe: Munchies that Make a Meeting

The mission of Wolfgang Puck's Springs Cafe, at the Springs Preserve in Las Vegas, is to deliver a responsible, sustainable and delicious culinary experience, and it succeeds.  I've attended two events there: a cooking class with Chef Peter Sherlock and a membership meeting of the Water Conservation Coalition (WCC).

If you're looking for great food to make your great event greater, the Springs Cafe is your go-to place!  Every bite I've eaten there has been yum-tastic... and a delight for the eyes as well as the taste buds.  The Springs Cafe is open daily from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., and you can break bread indoors or enjoy patio dining outdoors for the fresh air and scenic surroundings.

Below, a sampling of the tasty treats we enjoyed at the WCC meeting.

Tempura Shrimp with Wasabi Glaze

Sweet Maryland Crabcake with Herb Remoulade

Vegetable Empanada with Avocado Salsa

Monday, April 12, 2010

Parmesan Bacon Rice Balls

These are nicely crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside.  I only had one package of bacon bits to work with, which was okay.  I would have preferred two packages, and Mike agreed.  He thought they were great; his single request was to make 'em with "more bacon" next time.  :-)

This recipe could easily be adapted to make Bacon Cheeseburger Rice Balls by adding ground beef and shredded cheddar cheese.  Yum-o-licious!

  • 2 1/2 cups leftover white rice, room temperature (from Chinese food order)
  • 1/2 cup Italian breadcrumbs
  • 1-2 packages real bacon bits
  • 1 container shredded parmesan cheese
  • 4 eggs
  • Marinara sauce (optional)
  • 0% Greek yogurt (optional)

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  • Spritz a 9x13 baking pan with olive oil spray and set aside.
  • In a large bowl, combine rice, breadcrumbs, bacon bits, cheese and eggs, using hands to blend thoroughly.
  • Form into balls and place in baking pan.
  • Spritz balls with olive oil spray.
  • Bake for 40 to 45 minutes.
  • Serve with marinara sauce or Greek yogurt (or fat-free sour cream).

Clean-Eating Blender Crepes with Berries

  • Combine almond milk, whole wheat pastry flour, eggs, buttery spread, sugar and salt in blender and blend until smooth. 
  • Heat a small nonstick skillet over medium heat, and lightly coat with nonstick buttery spray (away from the flame). 
  • Pour 2 tablespoons batter into pan and quickly swirl to coat bottom. 
  • Cook crepe is set and becomes opaque, about 30 seconds to one minute. 
  • Use a spatula to gently pull the crepe edge from the pan and flip. 
  • Cook an additional 30 seconds on the second side, or until lightly browned. 
  • Warm frozen berries and sugar-free apricot jam in microwave. Spread over crepes. 
This recipe is adapted from Kitchen Daily.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Healthy Mac-n-Cheese with Fat-Free Hot Dogs

Macaroni & Cheese is classic comfort food, but it's typically an extremely high-calorie entrée.  This recipe cuts the calories, bumps up the fiber, and adds heart-healthy Omega 3s.  Throw in a tossed salad with light dressing, and you've got a crowd-pleasing meal that won't overwhelm your waistline.


  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  • Spritz a 9x13 baking pan with olive oil spray and set aside.
  • Boil elbows according to package directions and drain.
  • In a large saucepan, create a roux by melting the Smart Balance Light Buttery Spread and whisking the flour into it until thoroughly combined.
  • Gently whisk in the almond milk until there are no lumps.  
  • Cook, whisking constantly, for about 5 minutes.
  • Gradually whisk in 2 1/2 cups of shredded cheese until thoroughly melted and blended into roux.
  • Pan fry fat-free hot dogs and cut into bit-size pieces.
  • Mix pasta and hot dogs into cheese sauce.
  • Pour pasta mixture into prepared baking pan.
  • Sprinkle remaining half cup of cheese over the top.
  • Bake for 10 minutes.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Improv Choco-Strawberry Shortcake

I picked up some beautiful strawberries at the farmer's market this week, and the first thing I thought of was Strawberry Shortcake. I didn't have any biscuits, though, and didn't feel like making some. So, I improvised once again, using a yum-o-licious Double Chocolate VitaTop and some whipped cream.

This recipe is not only super fast and easy; it's also super healthy. VitaTops are nutritional powerhouses, for only 100 calories each. With the strawberries and the non-fat, no-sugar-added whipped cream, it's an innocent indulgence. :)

  • 1 Double Chocolate VitaTop
  • Sliced strawberries to taste
  • Whole Foods brand non-fat, no-sugar-added whipped cream to taste

  • If frozen, warm VitaTop in microwave for 20 seconds.
  • Slice VitaTop in half.
  • Cover bottom half of VitaTop with sliced strawberries.
  • Spritz some whipped cream on top of the strawberries.
  • Cover with top half of VitaTop.
  • Spritz with more whipped cream.
  • Add a few bits of crystallized ginger, if desired.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Lip-Smackin' Good Brownies


  • 1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 sticks unsalted butter, cut into pieces
  • 1 6.8-ounce bar of Hershey's Special Dark chocolate, broken into pieces
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 4 large eggs


  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  • Spritz a 9x13 baking pan with buttery spray.
  • In a medium bowl, whisk the pastry flour and salt together.
  • Melt chocolate pieces and butter pieces in the microwave.
  • Whisk in 1 cup of sugar.
  • Whisk in vanilla.
  • Whisk in 2nd cup of sugar and all four eggs until well blended.
  • Whisk in flour mixture.
  • Pour batter into prepared pan.
  • Bake for approximately 30 minutes.
  • Be sure to let the brownies cool completely before cutting.

Although this is not a low-fat or low-calorie recipe, the whole wheat pastry flour and dark chocolate do give it a better nutrition profile, making it a much healthier indulgence. Enjoy!

Improv Chipotle Nachos

When we go to Chipotle, I always get a vegetarian bowl. I skip the rice, and sometimes the beans, and load up on the fajita veggies (green peppers and red onions) and the pico de gallo. I skip the cheese and the sour cream, but I treat myself to the guac. Guacamole is so good for you... and so tasty! Sometimes, if I'm craving meat, I get myself a small side cup of the shredded pork.

Tonight, I decided to improvise a bit, and Improv Chipotle Nachos were the result.

  • I layered 1 1/2 servings of organic Whole Foods' tortilla chips on a plate.
  • I spread half my vegetarian bowl on top of the nachos.
  • I spread half of the side cup of shredded pork on top of the veggies.
  • I grated about 1/3 cup of 75% reduced-fat Cheddar cheese and sprinkled it on top.
  • I popped it all in the microwave for about 2 minutes.
  • A dollop of guac and a dollop of 0% fat Greek yogurt finished it off.
It was a decadent dish, better than any restaurant nachos I've had, and so much healthier. Fabulous!

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

A Colorific Veggie Find!

I was shopping at the Trader Joe's, in the produce aisle, when I turned around to discover these colorific gems! Naturally, I had buy a couple of packages. They were too pretty to pass up!

I also picked up a bag of Trader Joe's frozen seafood blend: shrimp, calamari rings and bay scallops. I steamed the veggies, sauteed the seafood, and voila! An easy, healthy, visually appealing meal! :)

Salmon Cakes with Steamed Broccoli & Cauliflower


  • 1 2.6-ounce Chicken of the Sea Pink Salmon pouch
  • 1/2 cup Italian breadcrumbs
  • 1 egg
  • 2 wedges Light Laughing Cow Swiss Cheese


  • Thoroughly mix all ingredients in a bowl.
  • Form salmon mixture into three patties.
  • Spritz a fry pan with olive oil spray.
  • On medium-high heat, pan fry patties until browned.
  • While pan frying, steam broccoli and cauliflower in the bag in the microwave.
  • Plate and season as desired.

Blondie Truffles


  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 sticks (8 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 1/2 cups packed dark brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup of chocolate chips (optional)
  • 1 cup of walnuts or other chopped nuts (optional)
  • 1 cup of Heath toffee bits (optional)
  • 1 cup of shredded coconut (optional)

  • Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.
  • Spritz a 9x13 baking pan with buttery spray.
  • Whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
  • Beat the butter on medium speed until smooth and creamy.
  • Add both sugars and beat for about 3 minutes, or until well blended.
  • Add the eggs one at a time, beating for a minute or so after each one.
  • Add the vanilla.
  • On low, blend in the flour mixture until just incorporated.
  • Use a rubber spatula to fold in any additional items like chocolate chips or walnuts.
To make the truffles, I baked my Blondies in a silicon Brownie Pop pan. It's important to let them cool completely before trying to remove them. Then, I melted chocolate candy melts according to package directions, and dipped the cooled Blondie Truffle bottoms into the melted chocolate. Then, I decorated the top with vanilla icing and white nonpareils.

This Blondie recipe was adapted from Dorie Greenspan's Baking: From My Home to Yours.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Don’t have a niche? Don’t let that stop you.

One of the things that held me back in my early years of cooking was the feeling that I needed to have particular cooking niche.

So many cooks define themselves by the type of cooking they do: indulgent comfort foods, vegetarian, low-fat, semi-homemade, low-carb, gluten-free. In some cases, they have to narrow their focus due to allergies or some other health issue. Makes total sense for them.

However, I felt burdened by deciding on a focus and sticking with it no matter what. It wasn’t until I gave myself permission to prepare food in all types of ways that I really started to embrace the joy of cooking.

In 2002, I embarked on a lifestyle change that resulted in me losing over 100 pounds and keeping it off to this day. So, when I really started cooking for myself and then for my new husband, I concentrated on low-calorie and/or “clean” foods. I still cook in that manner, but I’ve expanded beyond it. I cook based on what I’ve got in the pantry, what I feel like eating, who I’m cooking for.

My husband, for instance, abhors most vegetables. Unless they are starchy peas, carrots or corn, he’s not gonna eat ‘em. My French Green Soup will elicit a “blech” and a grimace if I try to serve it to him. He also doesn’t eat chicken, and he doesn’t like most seafood unless it’s fried. That means, I make more standard, “man friendly” fare for him. When I eat those dishes, though, I take a small portion and fill out my plate with lots of veggies.

I’ve also figured out what substitutions will work for him. I can slip pureed veggies into some of his meals, but I can’t serve him a side of steamed broccoli and cauliflower. I can make him a much healthier pepperoni pizza (with light Flat Out flatbread, low-cal sauce, reduced-fat cheese and turkey pepp), but he’s not going to go for pan-fried tofu in place of steak.

When we have visitors or go to parties or celebrate holidays, I like to make indulgent foods like Blondie Truffles or Taquito Casserole, with no substitutions. To maintain my weight and health, I try not to have these items in the house regularly – or in quantity - because I will just scarf ‘em down and regret it later.

My point is that you don’t need to cook in only one way – unless, of course, you want to. Feel free to experiment with all different kinds of cooking and learn what works for you… and when… and for whom. Doing that took a lot of the pressure for me and made being a Late Blooming Chef a lot more fun.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Super Simple Apple Crisp with Vanilla Cream

This was another one of those spontaneous recipes that was based on ingredients on hand.


Apple Crisp
  • 1 small bag of sliced apples
  • approximately 2/3 jar sugar-free apricot jam
  • approximately 3/4 cup of granola (leftover from Easter breakfast at Denny's)
  • Several pats of butter

Vanilla Cream
  • 1 single-serve container of 0% Greek yogurt
  • approximately 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • approximately 1/4 cup confectioner's sugar (roughly)

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  • Spritz an 8x8 baking pan with buttery spray.
  • Layer apple slices evenly in baking pan.
  • Spread sugar-free jam as evenly as possible over the apples.
  • Shake granola as evenly as possible over the jam-covered apples.
  • Dot pats of butter evenly over granola- and jam-covered apples.
  • Bake for 40 minutes.
  • While the crisp is baking, whisk Greek yogurt, vanilla and confectioner's sugar together until smooth.
  • Serve apple crisp warm from oven with a dollop of vanilla cream on the side.

Open Face Beef Pot Pie

This was one of those kooky recipes that just came to me while I was loading the dishwasher. It's a classic semi-homemade dish. Very simple and easy to make; very tasty and comforting.

  • Prepared pie crust
  • 1 can roast beef with sauce
  • 1/2 bag frozen mixed green beans, peas and carrots
  • 1 can Campbell's cream of potato soup
  • 1 cup reduced-fat shredded Monterey Jack and cheddar cheese

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  • Spritz a glass pie plate with olive oil spray.
  • Press pie crust in pie plate and set aside.
  • Defrost veggies in microwave.
  • In a medium bowl, mix roast beef, cream of potato soup, defrosted veggies and shredded cheese.
  • Pour beef mixture into prepared pie crust.
  • Bake for about 40 minutes.

Mixed Berry Lemonade Bars



  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup butter, room temperature
  • 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/4 tsp salt


  • 1 cup lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup pureed mixed berries (about 3/4 cup berries - made by pulsing partially thawed mixed berries in a blender)
  • 1 1/4 cups sugar
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1/4 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt


  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly spritz an 8x8-inch baking pan with buttery spray.
  • In a large bowl, cream together sugar and butter, until smooth and fluffy. Working at a low speed, gradually beat in flour and salt until mixture is crumbly. Pour into prepared pan and press into an even layer. Bake for about 17 minutes, until set at the edges.
  • While the crust bakes, prepare the filling.
  • In the blender, combine lemon juice, mixed berry puree, sugar and eggs and process until smooth. Add in flour, baking powder and salt, then pulse until smooth.
  • Gently pour the filling over the hot crust when it has finished baking. Return pan to oven and bake for about 35 minutes, until the filling is set (There will be a light colored “crust” on top from the sugar in the custard - nothing to worry about).
  • Cool completely before slicing and use a damp knife to ensure clean slices.
  • Store bars in the refrigerator, especially on a hot day.

Makes 24 bars.

Chocolate Chip Cookies


  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1 egg
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 2 cups semisweet chocolate chips


  • Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F (165 degrees C). Grease cookie sheets or line with parchment paper.
  • Sift together the flour, baking soda and salt; set aside.
  • In a medium bowl, cream together the melted butter, brown sugar and white sugar until well blended. Beat in the vanilla, egg, and egg yolk until light and creamy. Mix in the sifted ingredients until just blended. Stir in the chocolate chips by hand using a wooden spoon. Drop cookie dough 1/4 cup at a time onto the prepared cookie sheets. Cookies should be about 3 inches apart.
  • Bake for 15 to 17 minutes in the preheated oven, or until the edges are lightly toasted. Cool on baking sheets for a few minutes before transferring to wire racks to cool completely.

Taquito Casserole

  • 1 bag frozen beef and cheese taquitos
  • 1 10 3/4 ounce can of Campbell's cheddar cheese soup
  • 1 10 3/4 ounce can of Campbell's nacho cheese soup
  • 1 large can diced tomatoes and green chiles
  • 1 cup shredded reduced-fat Monterey Jack and cheddar cheese blend

  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees (or whatever temperature is indicated on the taquitos).
  • Bake taquitos according to package instructions.
  • If necessary, reduce temp to 400 degrees.
  • Spritz an 11x17 baking pan with olive oil spray.
  • In a medium bowl, mix together soups and 3/4 can of tomatoes and green chiles.
  • Layer taquitos in prepared baking pan, starting with half of the taquitos and topping them with half the soup mixture.
  • Repeat.
  • Bake for 20 minutes.
  • Remove from oven and sprinkle cheese on top.
  • Bake for another 5 minutes.
  • Remove from oven and spoon remaining tomatoes and green chiles over the top.

This recipe is adapted from Sandra Lee's Semi Homemade Magazine, March/April 2010 issue. I couldn't find the nacho cheese soup. So, I used an extra can of the cheddar cheese soup and mixed in some leftover Taco Bell hot and mild sauces to give it that "nacho" flavor. :-)

French Green Soup with Sautéed Shrimp and Parmesan Wonton Crisps

  • 3 medium yellow onions, sliced
  • 2 Tbsp EVOO or Canola Oil
  • 3 cups vegetable broth or stock
  • 1 small bunch (about 2 cups) baby spinach leaves
  • 2 cups cooked broccoli and cauliflower
  • 2 cups (about 4 large leaves) shredded romaine lettuce
  • 1/2 cup shredded parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 to 1 cup unsweetened almond milk
  • 1 Tbsp lemon juice
  • salt and pepper, to taste

  • In a large pot or Dutch oven, heat the oil over medium heat; add the onions and cook, stirring, until they are soft, 5-10 minutes. Add the broth, lower heat, cover and simmer until onions are tender, about 15 minutes.
  • Add the spinach, broccoli, cauliflower and lettuce, pushing the leaves to submerge in the broth. Continue to cook until leaves are soft and wilted, about 5 minutes.
  • Using a blender, blend soup and parmesan cheese to desired smoothness, then add the milk, lemon and seasonings to taste and stir well. Heat just until warmed through, and serve with parmesan cheese and sauteed shrimp, if desired.

Makes 4 servings. May be frozen.