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Friday, February 26, 2010

Tortilla Soup with Black Beans and Quesadillas

I found this Tortilla Soup with Black Beans recipe in an old copy of Everyday Food.  My mom, aunts and grandma each subscribe to a magazine, then they pass around the copies of the magazines to each other.  By the time this January 2009 issue got to my mom it was Christmas 2009.  I swiped it from my parents house while we visiting over the holidays.  I knew it would get more use with me than at my mom's.  I love my mom and her cooking, but she doesn't regularly try new recipes, so I knew I'd find at least a few things for Zach and I to make.  I really like that the magazine listed the nutrition info since we're following the Weight Watchers program and that makes it super simple to find out the right points for a recipe.  Seeing it would be fairly low points, and a large serving size I was sold!  We also needed a meatless meal for Ash Wednesday and this fit perfectly.  We decided to make the quesadillas to turn it into a mexican inspired version of tomato soup and grilled cheese.  It was very good, and the leftovers made a great lunch. 

Tortilla Soup with Black Beans
From Everyday Food, January 2009
Serves 4 (2 1/2 cups per serving)
WW Points per serving: 5


1 tablespoon olive oil
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon chili powder
2 cans (14 1/2 ounces each) diced tomatoes in juice
2 cans (15 ounces each) black beans, rinsed and drained
1 can (14 1/2 ounces) reduced-sodium chicken broth
1 package (10 ounces) frozen corn kernels
Coarse salt and ground pepper
1 cup crushed tortilla chips, plus more for serving (optional)
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice, plus lime wedges for serving


  • In a large saucepan, heat oil over medium. Cook garlic and chili powder until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add tomatoes (with juice), beans, broth, corn, and 1 cup water; season with salt and pepper.
  • Bring soup to a boil; reduce to a simmer. Add tortilla chips; cook until softened, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat; stir in lime juice, and season with salt and pepper. Serve soup with lime wedges and, if desired, more chips.

serves 2
WW Points per serving:  5

4 whole wheat tortillas
1 red pepper, sliced
1 onion, sliced
1 teaspoon olive oil
1/2 cup 2% mexican shredded cheese

  • Heat a non-stick skillet over medium heat.  Add oil to pan, then peppers and onions.  Saute until tender crisp, about 5 minutes.  When done transfer vegetables to a bowl.
  • In same skillet, spray with PAM cooking spray and turn heat to medium-low.  Then begin layering quesadillas -- whole wheat tortilla, half of pepper and onion mixture, 1/4 cup of cheese, then a second tortilla.  Heat until bottom tortilla gets browned, then spray the top of the second tortilla with PAM spray.  Next, carefully use either a large spatula or a large plate to help flip tortilla.  Cook until browned on other side. 
  • Cut into quarters and serve.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Loaded Baked Potato Soup

I found this soup while flipping through The Best of Cooking Light and looking for yummy recipes to make over our week of snow days.  I knew we had some bacon to use up and the insides of the baked potatoes we had used to make potato skins for the Super Bowl.  So, it was a perfect way to stay cozy and warm during our snow days and to use up some ingredients.  It was very yummy, both Zach and I liked it a lot.  I found it a little chunkier than I would prefer, but that is easily fixable.  The scallions and sour cream really made it taste like a loaded baked potato and it made great leftovers that we enjoyed all week. 

Baked Potato Soup
Yield: 8 servings (serving size: about 1 1/2 cups soup, 1 1/2 teaspoons cheese, 1 1/2 teaspoons onions)

4 baking potatoes (about 2 1/2 pounds)
2/3 cup all-purpose flour
6 cups 2% reduced-fat milk
1 cup (4 ounces) reduced-fat shredded extra-sharp cheddar cheese, divided
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 cup reduced-fat sour cream
3/4 cup chopped green onions, divided
6 bacon slices, cooked and crumbled


  • Preheat oven to 400°.
  • Pierce potatoes with a fork; bake at 400° for 1 hour or until tender. Cool. Peel potatoes; coarsely mash. Discard skins.
  • Lightly spoon flour into a dry measuring cup; level with a knife. Place flour in a large Dutch oven; gradually add milk, stirring with a whisk until blended. Cook over medium heat until thick and bubbly (about 8 minutes). Add mashed potatoes, 3/4 cup cheese, salt, and pepper, stirring until cheese melts. Remove from heat.
  • Stir in sour cream and 1/2 cup onions. Cook over low heat 10 minutes or until thoroughly heated (do not boil). Sprinkle each serving with cheese, onions, and bacon.
Nutritional Information 
Calories: 329
Fat: 10.8g
Fiber: 2.8g
WW Points per serving: 7 

Monday, February 22, 2010

Chipotle Potato Skins

This was a recipe that took some searching to find.  As the Super Bowl approached I knew I wanted to make some yummy appetizers for us to snack on.  But, since we recently started Weight Watchers, I knew they had to be recipes that would be fairly low in points and still make us feel like we were indulging.  This fit perfectly.  I thought I had a recipe in my files for baked potato skins from Weight Watchers, but after looking through my shoebox of recipes I couldn't find it.  So, off to the Weight Watchers website I went.  Their search function is not really user-friendly, but I found this recipe eventually.  It had a great spiciness and I did use regular bacon instead of canadian bacon.  Mostly since I already had some in the freezer, and partly because, well, it's just better!  It was the Super Bowl after all, and a planned indulgence, so it was worth it!  

Chipotle Potato Skins
Serves 8 (serving size is 2 potato skins)
WW Points per serving: 4


4 large potato(es), baking-variety, cooked, cooled and quartered lengthwise
1 1/2 Tbsp olive oil
1 tsp chili powder, or chipotle chili powder
1/4 tsp hot pepper sauce
6 slice(s) cooked Canadian-style bacon, finely chopped
3/4 cup(s) low-fat shredded cheddar cheese
2 medium tomato(es), diced (We omitted these as the quality of tomatoes when we were grocery shopping left much to be desired.)
3 medium scallion(s), finely chopped
1/2 cup(s) reduced-fat sour cream

  • Preheat oven to 425°F. Scoop out flesh of potatoes, leaving a thin layer of potato flesh in potato. (Reserve remaining potato flesh for another use such as mashed potatoes, or use in this soup.)
  • In a small bowl, combine oil, chili powder and hot pepper sauce. Using a pastry brush, brush insides of potato wedges with oil mixture. Place potato wedges in a single layer on a large nonstick baking sheet; sprinkle with bacon and cheese.
  • Bake until cheese melts and potatoes are heated through, about 15 minutes. Sprinkle with tomatoes and scallions; serve with sour cream on the side. Yields 2 potato skins and about 2 tablespoons sour cream per serving.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Turkey Burgers with Peanut Sauce

I found this recipe in a quick search of Cooking Light's online recipes.  I knew we had some ground turkey to use up and I definitely wanted a burger.  Lately we've been going to many Asian restaurants and I've been obsessed with various peanut sauces, which is odd for me, since I don't like peanuts.  I mean, I don't mind peanut butter in recipes (peanut butter cookies!), but as a kid I would eat jelly sandwiches instead of peanut butter and jelly, and I've never really liked snacking on nuts in general, just recently I've started to like almonds as a snack, but peanuts are still not my thing, unless of course they are made into a spicy, yummy sauce.  Recently anytime we've been out to lunch or dinner and I see a spring roll served with a side of peanut dipping sauce, I've ordered it.  I thought this would be a good way to recreate the same flavors at home.  It was great!  I really liked it and it came together really easily.  We made it one night during the recent blizzard when we had a snow day, but it would work great as a regular weeknight meal as well.  I only made one change, and that was to use already ground turkey breast instead of using chicken breasts and grinding them down yourself with a food processor.  I think this substitution makes for an ever easier weeknight meal. 

Turkey Burgers with Peanut Sauce
adapted from Cooking Light

Yield: Makes 4 servings


2 tablespoons peanut butter
2 teaspoons low-sodium soy sauce
1 1/2 teaspoons dark sesame oil
1 teaspoon water
1 teaspoon rice vinegar
1 garlic clove, minced

1/2 cup finely chopped green onions
1 tablespoon chile paste with garlic
2 teaspoons grated peeled fresh ginger
2 teaspoons low-sodium soy sauce
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 pound ground turkey (or chicken)
Cooking spray
4 (2-ounce) sandwich rolls with sesame seeds
1 cup onion sprouts or alfalfa sprouts

  • To prepare sauce, combine first 6 ingredients, stirring with a whisk until smooth.
  • Prepare grill.
  • To prepare burgers, combine onions and next 5 ingredients (onions through chicken) in a bowl. Divide mixture into 4 equal portions, shaping each into a 1/2-inch-thick patty.
  • Place patties on a grill rack coated with cooking spray; grill 4 minutes on each side or until done. Place rolls, cut sides down, on grill rack; grill 1 minute or until toasted. Place 1 patty on bottom half of each roll; top each serving with 1/4 cup sprouts, about 1 tablespoon sauce, and top half of roll. Yield 4 servings.

Nutritional Information
WW Points per serving: 7

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Pita and Naan Pizzas

We got this idea from the best grocery store ever - Wegmans!  Now, Wegmans are fairly new to people down here in the DC area, but coming from Rochester, the home of Wegmans, I have been a lifelong customer.  They truly are the best, I could go on and on.  Their store brands are high quality, the bakery, cheese and produce departments simply can't be beat plus they always have lost of yummy samples!  Their prices are consistently low and they are a family run business that really does care about their customers.  Anyway, that's enough Wegmans love for now, but they inspired our pita and naan pizzas.  One week one of the samples was pizza made using a new product they were featuring - their naan bread.  We had the sample and went on our way.  Then, last week we had red curry chicken and bought the naan for that meal.  What to do with the leftover piece of naan?  Pizza!  I don't know how true we stayed to the original recipe, since I tried to look it up on the website and could not find it, but we made our own version.  It's less of a recipe and more of a process, since everyone really understands the basics of topping a pizza, but it was so good I had to share!

Pita and Naan Pizzas
Inspired by Wegmans!


For the pita pizza:
whole wheat pita shell
2 tablespoons jarred pizza sauce
various toppings - We used onions, yellow peppers and turkey pepperoni.
1/4 cup 2% shredded cheese

For the naan pizza:
naan flatbread, We used Wegman's brand whole wheat.
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 tablespoon chopped rosemary
freshly ground black pepper
2 cloves garlic
1/4 cup shredded fontina cheese
1 tablespoon parmesan cheese

  • Heat oven to 350 degrees.
  • Place pitas on pizza stone. (Or sheet pan if you don't have a pizza stone.)
  • Mix olive oil, minced garlic, rosemary salt and pepper in small bowl, let sit.
  • Slice onions and peppers.   Quarter the turkey pepperoni.
  • Assemble pita pizza with pizza sauce, onions, peppers, pepperoni and then cheese.  
  • Assemble naan pizza by spreading oil mixture on naan, then topping with onions, fontina and then sprinkling with parmesan.
  • bake for 12-15 minutes or until cheese melts and breads are crisp.
WW Points:  For the pita pizza we figured 5 points, using one serving size of turkey pepperoni split between 3 pizzas.  For the naan pizza the total was 11 points.  You would recalculate based on the ingredients you choose.  

Cornmeal Waffles with Chili

For the my first birthday after we started dating Zach got me a waffle maker as one of my presents.  It sounds very, shall we say, domestic, but I had wanted one, and we were spending our weekends together long enough at that point that our breakfasts needed some new variations.  Upon opening it I discovered a few recipes in the manual, one of which was this one, Cornmeal Waffles.  As soon as I saw it I wanted to make them and top them with Zach's award winning chili -- yes he's actually won an award for it, at a work chili cookoff contest, but that's still an award!   It's a delicious twist on cornbread with chili and helps to counteract the spiciness that Zach's chili often has.  You can top with sour cream, shredded cheese, and sliced green onions!

Cornmeal Waffles
source: my Cuisinart Waffle Maker Instruction Booklet
Makes (8) 6 1/2 inch round waffles

1 1/4 cups flour
3/4 cup yellow cornmeal
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 3/4 cups milk
6 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 large eggs

  • Place ingredients in large mixing bowl and combine until well blended and smooth.  Let batter sit 5 minutes before using.  
  • Preheat waffle maker.
  • Pour 1/2 cup batter onto the center of the lower grid, close cover.  
  • Remove waffles when done, and for best results serve immediately.  You can keep them warm in a 200 degree oven until ready to serve.  
Nutritional Information:
264 Calories
13 g Fat
6g Protein
32 g Carbs
1g Fiber

Fontina and Caramelized Onion Stuffed Chicken

This is another recipe from The Best of Cooking Light.  It caught my eye right away since it was originally entitled Brie and Caramelized Onion Stuffed Chicken.  I am a recent convert to Brie cheese and definitely wanted to try this recipe right away.  We put it on the menu for the next week.  When we were shopping at the store though, the Brie was in larger chunks.  The recipe only calls for 2 ounces, and I knew if we had that extra Brie sitting around it would do damage in our efforts to lose weight,  So, I decided to use Fontina instead since we already had some at home from a previous recipe.  That's the only change I made to the recipe, besides scaling it down to make two chicken breasts instead of four.  It was very good, and felt much more rich than just 220 calories.  I would definitely make it again, both in my modified version and tro try again with Brie.  

Fontina and Caramelized Onion Stuffed Chicken

Yield: 4 servings (serving size: 1 chicken breast half and 3 tablespoons sauce)

1 teaspoon olive oil, divided
1 1/2 cups sliced onion
4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
2/3 cup dry white wine, divided
2 ounces Brie or Camembert cheese, rind removed and cut into small pieces (about 2 tablespoons)  (I used shredded Fontina.)
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
4 (4-ounce) skinned, boned chicken breast halves
2 tablespoons minced onion
1 tablespoon chopped fresh or 3/4 teaspoon dried rubbed sage
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 (10 1/2-ounce) can low-salt chicken broth
Sage sprigs (optional)


  • Heat 1/2 teaspoon oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add sliced onion; sauté 30 minutes or until golden brown. Add sliced garlic; sauté 5 minutes. Stir in 1/3 cup wine; cook 5 minutes or until liquid almost evaporates. Spoon onion mixture into a bowl; let cool. Stir in Brie, salt, and pepper.
  • Cut a horizontal slit through the thickest portion of each chicken breast half to form a pocket. Stuff about 1 1/2 tablespoons of the onion mixture into each pocket.
  • Heat 1/2 teaspoon oil in skillet over medium-high heat. Add chicken; sauté 6 minutes on each side or until chicken is done. Remove chicken from skillet. Set aside; keep warm.
  • Add 1/3 cup wine, minced onion, sage, and minced garlic to skillet. Cook over medium-high heat for 2 minutes. Stir in broth. Bring to a boil, and cook 7 minutes or until reduced to 3/4 cup. Return chicken to skillet; cover and simmer 2 minutes or until thoroughly heated. Serve sauce with chicken. Garnish with fresh sage, if desired.

Nutritional Information 
WW Points: 5

Monday, February 1, 2010

Grits Casserole with White Beans and Rosemary

This recipe is from my Cookbook of the Month for January and February, The Best of Cooking Light.  What drew me to the recipe was the rosemary.  I used to not like rosemary.  I had only encountered it rarely, and when I did the shape and often charred manifestation of it reminded me of pine needles.  It wasn't an herb that made me want to come back for more.

My mom did not use many fresh herbs in her cooking, probably because they were not as readily available as they are now, and I'd imagine if they were available, they were expensive.  My mom used the be the queen of bargain shopping, and was an expert at coupon clipping.  Now that I am the primary cook, I am a huge fan of coupons and use them whenever possible, but I also have come to realize the fantastic flavor that fresh herbs can bring to a dish.  In my mind, they are worth the money in the winter especially.

This spring, now that we finally have a summer when we wont be moving, and a cute little outdoor yard and deck, we plan to plant three or four big pots of herbs for our own mini herb garden.  Rosemary is at the top of our list.  Chopped finely, and not left to it's normal pine needle like state, it's a great addition to many recipes and a flavor I am coming to greatly enjoy.  I did make one change to the recipe, I used bread crumbs we already had instead of the fresh bread crumbs.  The ones I had were made from whole wheat bread, so I think they added some extra nuttiness and worked just fine.

Grits Casserole with White Beans and Rosemary
Adapted from The Best of Cooking Light
Yield: 8 servings

1 cup breadcrumbs
1/2 cup (2 ounces) grated fresh Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley
7 cups boiling water, divided
3 ounces sun-dried tomatoes, packed without oil, chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 cups vertically sliced red onion
1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt, divided
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 (19-ounce) can cannellini beans or other white beans, drained
1 1/2 cups uncooked regular grits
2 tablespoons butter
Cooking spray

  • Preheat oven to 400°.
  • Combine breadcrumbs, cheese, and parsley in a small bowl; set aside
  • Combine 3 cups boiling water and sun-dried tomatoes in a bowl; let stand 10 minutes or until soft. Drain tomatoes over a bowl, reserving 1 cup liquid.
  • Heat oil in a nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion, rosemary, crushed red pepper, and garlic; saute 3 minutes. Add tomatoes and reserved 1 cup liquid. Bring to a boil; cook 7 minutes or until most of liquid evaporates. Add 1/2 teaspoon salt, black pepper, and beans.
  • Combine 4 cups boiling water, 1 teaspoon salt, grits, and butter in a large saucepan. Cook 8 minutes over medium heat, stirring constantly. Pour grits mixture into an 11 x 7-inch baking dish coated with cooking spray. Spoon tomato mixture evenly over grits; top with breadcrumb mixture. Bake at 400° for 20 minutes or until golden.

Nutritional Information, per serving
Calories: 303
Fat: 7.4g (sat 3.4g,mono 2.9g,poly 0.9g)
Protein: 10.2g
Carbohydrate: 47.2g
Fiber: 5.2g
WW Points: 6

Cookbook of the Month: January/February 2010

As the new year hit us, we decided that a good resolution would be to start eating healthier in the hopes of losing some weight.  We started following the Weight Watchers program, a program I have used successfully before.  So far in our first three weeks I am down over 5 pounds, and Zach has lost over 7, and we hope to stick with it to meet our goal weights sometime this spring.  So, you can expect to see many more "light" recipes popping up in this blog.  Right now we've been using The Best of Cooking Light to plan many of our meals, since it provides nutritional info for each recipe, which makes it very easy to figure out the Weight Watchers 'points'.  It's also my Cookbook of the Month for January, and since it's so large (over 400 pages and 500 recipes!) February too!  We've already made 4 recipes from it this month, and have enjoyed them all.  I found it on a clearance rack at Borders for $7.99 and it's become a great resource as we search for ways to lighten up our meals and still have great flavor.  Now that I have it, I know I'd gladly pay twice or three times as much for it, since it's got so many great recipes.