Saturday, September 24, 2011

Ice Cold Strawberry Milkshakes

My dad recently reminded me of this tasty low calorie treat. If I'm craving ice cream or something sweet at night, this will really hit the spot and satisfy my craving. Plus, it's really filling and you'll eat it slower because it's cold! These are so good, even strawberry haters (yes, they do exist, in my own house, actually) will gobble them right up.

15 frozen strawberries
1/2 cup Splenda (or sugar)
2 cups fat-free milk

Blend until smooth. Makes 4-5 cups. Weight Watchers Point Plus Value: 4 points for the whole batch. About 1 point per cup, depending on serving size.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Zucchini Quiche

Do you have zucchini at your house? Then you must make this recipe. It was so good, I made it for my family dinner one night, then made it for a girly lunch with the women in my extended family a couple days later. Everyone raved about it, from the non-zucchini lovers in my house, to my two-year-old, to my husband, and my grandma.

Another thing I have to say is this is the way to prepare zucchini as a side dish. No more of this steaming mushy stuff. Slice your zucchini very thinly, and cook it up with some onions and garlic in a little bit of butter and top it with salt and pepper. It was so good I couldn't stop picking at it with my fingers while I prepared the rest of it. I used one of those ginormous zucchinis that come from your garden, so I sliced it as thinly as I could, then cut the slices into quarters.

I simply bought two frozen pie crusts at the store (they came in a two pack) and found a pound of gruyere cheese at Costco. I used a deep dish pie crust, so I added an extra egg and a little more cheese than the original recipe.

Zucchini Quiche
adapted from Our Best Bites

1 deep dish frozen pie crust
1 lb. zucchini
1 Tbl. butter
1/2 c. chopped onion
3 cloves garlic (I used 3 tsp. prepared minced garlic)
kosher salt
black pepper
4 eggs
1/2 Tbl. dijon mustard
1 1/2 tsp. dry oregano
1/8 - 1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes, depending on how much kick you want
8 oz. gruyere cheese
1/4 c. grated Parmesan cheese (or if you are out like me, I substituted the powdery stuff and it still tasted great)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

In a large skillet on the stove top, melt butter. Add onions and garlic and cook for about 1 minute, stirring frequently. Add sliced zucchini and add a sprinkle of salt (about 1/2 tsp.) and a few cracks of black pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 3-4 minutes until zucchini is softened. Remove pan from heat and set aside.

In a separate bowl, lightly beat eggs. Add dijon mustard, oregano, and red pepper flakes. (You might want to use the lower end measurement for red pepper flakes for kids.) Whisk to combine, then gently stir in Gruyere cheese.

Add egg and cheese mixture to zucchini mixture and toss until combined. Place mixture in prepared pie crust and sprinkler Parmesan cheese on top.

Bake for 40-50 minutes or until center is set and top is lightly golden. Cool for at least 15 minutes before cutting. Can be served warm, at room temp, or even cold.

Edit: I would add that if you are using an old zucchini, remove the seeds. The first time I made it with a ginormous zucchini from the garden, and the seeds softened up just fine and blended into the quiche. The next time I made it, the zucchini was a little older and the seeds didn't soften up and you had to pick them out as you ate it.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Rainbow Jello

St. Patrick's Day is this week, and I've been trying to work up a green menu plan for my family. I have a hard time adding green food coloring to all the food. It seriously grosses me out. I know much of the food I buy at the store is full of food coloring, but somehow it's different than green scrambled eggs or green milk. Corned beef and cabbage would never fly at my house, so I've been trying to come up with some ideas of more naturally green food.

This year, we're going to go easy on breakfast with some Lucky Charms. My kids have never had them, so I think they'll be a hit. I'm still working on some fun ideas for lunch. I'd love to hear any ideas you've got to share.

For dinner, I've got some spinach pasta from the grocery store, which is already green! I'm going to make some fresh pesto sauce to go on top. Get out your green table cloth, and serve it up with a green vegetable and some of this rainbow jello and voila! You're family will be so impressed. You could even serve some of this low calorie key lime pie for dessert.

This jello will take a while to make, but most of it is down time while you wait for the next layer to set up in the fridge. It's a piece of cake if you are working on other projects around the house. Just take a break from folding laundry and add your next layer before moving your load of whites over to the dryer. I'm going to make mine the day before St. Patrick's day so it's ready to go and I don't have to worry about it the day of.

Now, this is important. Unless you fridge is more level than mine, it won't look very cool if your layers aren't level. I usually have to fold up a piece of paper and shove it under one side to compensate.

Check out more St. Patrick's ideas at the below, and remember to share your green ideas with me in the comments!

Other St. Patrick's Day Ideas:

Veggies: broccoli, green beans, spinach, cucumbers, green salad

Fruit: green grapes, honey dew melon, kiwi, green apples dipped in a pot of gold (peanut butter or caramel)

Treats: goldfish crackers, gold mini Reeses peanut butter cups, Skittles, M&M cookies with green M&Ms or Andes mints

Lunch: green juice boxes, green jello cups, pickles, green fruit leather

Broccoli and Bowtie Pasta
Green Zucchini Soup with peasant bread
Key Lime Pie
Green smoothies via my sister-in-law Jen
Other St. Patrick's ideas from Jen

My St. Patrick's Day Pinterest Board

Rainbow Jello

Use a 9 x 13 dish.

You will need small boxes of jello (in this order):
black cherry (purple)
1 1/2 lb. sour cream

Combine one box of jello with 1 1/4 cups boiling water. Divide this mixture in half.

First half, add 1/3 c. sour cream and stir until smooth. Use wire whisk to add sour cream. Mix it gently, being careful no to make it too foamy. Pour your sour cream jello layer into your glass dish and pop any bubbles before putting it into the fridge. Refrigerate 1/2 hour.

For the second half of the jello, add 3 Tbl. of cold water. Carefully spoon onto first layer. Chill 1/2 hour. You will end up repeating this process twelve times--two layers each of six colors of jello. Be careful as you pour on each layer. Remember to check that the dish is level before leaving it to set up.

Top with cool whip and serve to all those little leprechauns at your house!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Brown Sugar Chocolate Chip Cookies

My husband reminds me multiple times a week that his favorite cookies are of the chocolate chip variety. Whenever he hears me having a serious discussion with my kids about what kind of cookies we should make today, he inserts his opinion, and the answer is always the same: chocolate chip. And these cookies received his chocolate chip cookie expert overwhelming stamp of approval.

This is my mom's recipe, the cookies I grew up eating as a little girl. Normally I like cookies that use butter over shortening, but this recipe is fabulous. I love the flavor because they are heavy on the brown sugar. They are soft and chewy and perfect with a glass of milk.

1 cup shortening
2 cups brown sugar
2 eggs
2 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda dissolved in 3 Tbl. of water
3 cups flour
12 oz. semi-sweet chocolate chips

Cream shortening and brown sugar. Add eggs and cream well. Add vanilla, salt, baking powder, soda dissolved in water. Add flour one cup at a time and mix well. Finish off your cookie dough with 12 oz. chocolate chips.

Bake at 375 for 9 minutes. Allow to cool on cookie sheet for a few minutes before transferring to counter top to cool. Enjoy!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Chicken Taco Soup

I'm still dreaming about dinner last night. I can't wait to have the leftovers for lunch today. I've kind of been in a rut lately when it comes to planning dinner. Trying to make meals that are healthy, and not the boring same-old same-old. And this recipe was a winner. Super easy and fast, delicious flavor, and low Weight Watchers Points Plus values. I might make something different for the rest of the family for dinner tonight, just so I can keep all the leftovers of this soup for myself!

This is sometimes called Chicken Tortilla soup too.

2 Tbl. olive oil
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 tsp. oregano
4 c. chicken broth
8 oz. chopped green chiles
4 c. shredded cooked chicken
2 medium onions, diced
4 tsp. chili powder
60 oz. crushed tomatoes (I used 4-15 oz. cans)
16 oz. bag frozen corn
2 cans black beans, 15 oz. each
tortilla chips to serve

Heat oil in soup kettle. Add onions and saute until clear; add garlic and saute for one minute more.

Add remaining ingredients and bring to a boil. Simmer for 20 minutes. Serve with tortilla chips and a sprinkle of grated cheese on top.

Just the soup, without chips or cheese is 2 Weight Watchers PointsPlus per cup. And this recipe makes a huge pot -- 7 quarts, or 28-1 cup servings.

For fun, you could serve this in a tortilla bowl. You can make your own using a mold like these. (Hint: If you like the molds, it is helpful to have two or four so you can make more than one bowl at a time.) You could also cut up some tortillas into little 1/2" x 2" strips, fry them up, and use them to garnish on top of the cheese.

Thursday, January 06, 2011

My Grandpa's Famous Caramels

My Grandpa is a candy lover. Divinity, fudge--and yes, caramels--are his specialty. I have always loved these smooth, buttery caramels, but this was my first attempt at making them myself. And wow, what success I had! I ended up making five batches this past Christmas season, some to share with neighbors, and some for my kids who watched with longing eyes as we packed them up to give away to friends.

For my first attempt, these were easy--as long as I followed the recipe exactly. I know that candy making can sometimes be tricky, but I must have been lucky because all the batches I made turned out, if I do say so myself, absolutely perfect or to die for, take your pick.

First, you will need a candy thermometer. Then you will need to calibrate it. One word about calibrating your thermometer. I followed the directions on Our Best Bites and was disappointed to find that my brand new thermometer was off by 8 degrees. My water boiled at 204 degrees instead of 212! So, I wrote a big "+8" at the top of my thermometer before I realized the difference was due to elevation. Where I live in the Salt Lake City, Utah area, the altitude is 4320 feet, and if you use this calculator you will see at 4320 feet the boiling point of water is 204 degrees.

Image from
Since my Grandpa also lives in the Salt Lake area, this recipe is written to work perfectly at this altitude. So you will need to figure out the difference. For example, if you live in Boulder City, NV at an altitude of 2201 ft, according to the calculator the boiling point of water is 208 degrees, so you will need to add 4 degrees to the temperatures in this recipe. There can also be quite a range of altitudes even within one city, so you may want to check what the elevation is right where you live, because every 500 ft will make a difference of 1 degree on your candy thermometer.

You can also test your temperature while cooking by dropping a small amount of the candy into a cup of cold water. For this recipe, you want a firm ball stage, which means when you put a little bit into a cup of cold water it will form a soft ball that will hold it's shape. Since my husband especially loves things soft and chewy, I made a few batches of caramels at a soft ball stage, which means when dropped into a cup of cold water it will form a soft ball, but when you hold it or place it on a plate it will flatten and not hold it's shape. For me, the difference between my soft ball and firm ball were a couple of degrees. My best advice is to make a few batches relatively close together so you can find which temperature you like the best. 

Before you begin on the stove top, butter a glass 9x13 dish with butter.

2 c. sugar
1 c. white corn syrup
1/4 tsp. salt
2 c. (1 pint) whipping cream (not heavy)
1/2 c. (1 stick) butter
1 tsp. vanilla

Mix together sugar, corn syrup, salt, and 1/3 of the cream (you can eyeball it) in a heavy saucepan. Using a damp paper towel, wipe down the sides of the pan as best you can to remove any sugar on the inside of the pot that would make the caramels grainy.

Set your burner at medium heat (a 5 out of 10). Don't be tempted to turn up the heat to speed up the process. It will get you into trouble. Keep it at the same temperature the entire time.

Cover and bring to a boil at medium heat. Cook for five minutes to allow steam to melt sugar crystals down sides of pan. Remove lid and boil for 5 more minutes until quite thick.

Brought to a boil
Begin to add the cream gradually, slowly enough that it never stops boiling and allow the caramel to thicken after each addition. It takes about 5 minutes to add all the cream.
After all the cream has been added
 When all the cream has been added, use a candy thermometer to bring to a firm-ball stage or 234 degrees (mixture forms a firm ball when dripped into cold water and won't flatten when removed.) Keep stirring gently and continuously. As the temperature rises, the water boils away and the sugar concentration rises. 
Slice your butter into thin slices
Cut cube of butter into small slices and, after it has reached 234 degrees, add the butter to the mixture along with the vanilla. Stir quickly to melt butter and bring temperature back to 239.  (I accidentally cooked mine to a lower temperature - my chewier caramels to 234, and my slightly firmer caramels to 236).
After the butter has been added
Immediately pour without scraping the inside of the pot into a buttered 9x13 glass dish. Pour the majority of the caramel into the glass dish and just let as much drip out as you can. If you scrape the sides to get every last drop it will make your caramels turn hard.
Cool thoroughly and cut into 1 inch rectangles. Wrap in wax paper squares and store in an airtight container. I figure it took me 45 minutes to make one batch from start to finish.

 Did I mention these taste heavenly?