Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Beefy Black Bean Chili with Spicy Corn Muffins

Sad, rainy, grey day? Check!
Temperatures in the 60s on lower? Check!
Delicious hot bowl of chili with spicy corn muffins? CHECK!

There is nothing as simply satisfying as a comfort laden bowl of home-made chili. And I can't bear a rainy, sad day without a little comfort food. A Deb needs her comforting.

Now, as with any chili recipe, you can certainly feel free to make this one your own. Don't like beans? Leave 'em out. Vegetarian? Substitute kidney beans and a chopped red bell pepper for the beef, making a Dual Bean, meatless chili. Like it HOT? Crank up the spices! You can make this on the stove top (takes about 1 1/2 hour, including prep time) or toss everything in the crock pot that morning, at first sign of a thundery rumble!
Oh, and did I mention that 1 cup of this, topped with my delicious flavored cheesy crumble (below), is only 6 pts on WW? It comes in just under 300 calories, with 7 g. of fat and 6 grams of fiber, ya'll. This is comfort food that is good FOR you! So snuggle in for some Deb style goodness.

Debtastic Beefy Chili

You'll need:
Cook spray
1/4 lb. spicy chicken sausage (I used Buffalo style! But you can substitute sweet sausage in this if you don't like the heat)
2 C. chopped onion (this sounds like a lot, but it really adds tons of sweet flavor in the background!)
3 minced garlic cloves
1 lb. lean sirloin, cut into bite-sized pieces
2 T. tomato paste
2 C. chicken broth (use the low-sodium kind, it's better for you)
1 C. sun-dried tomatoes, chopped
1 C. water (You can also use beer, instead of the water, gives it a hearty, yeasty taste)
1 C. brown rice, prepared (optional -- if you add rice to any chili, it thickens it, ultimately. Play with your proportions to figure out how liquidy you like your chili; you can always add more water)
2 T. chili powder -- more or less to taste
1 T. hot peppers (omit if you don't like your chili to set your tongue a little on fire)
1/2 t. kosher salt
1/2 t. cumin
1 15 oz. can black beans, drained and rinsed (saltless, again, is better for you! Also, if you're not fond of beans, you can certainly substitute a chopped red bell pepper or another vegetable that you like!)

For Topping:
Cheesy Crumble (see below)
Fat Free sour cream
Crumbled Spicy Corn muffins (also below)

Remove any casings from your sausage. Heat a large sauce pan over medium high and coat with spray. Add in sausage, garlic and onion. Let the onion get soft, about 5 minutes. Add in your beef, cook until just browned, about another 5 minutes. Stir in paste, and cook 3 minutes, stirring. Add broth, tomatoes, water, rice, and seasonings. Bring to a boil, then cover, reduce heat, and simmer about an hour, until meat is tender and broth has reduced to preferred consistency. Stir in your beans (if using), cook until warmed through, maybe 5 more minutes. Top each serving with Cheesy Crumble, serve with corn muffins and plain, steamed green beans with just a little butter and salt.

This makes 4 servings, and you'll thank me next rainy day. It's particularly good with beer, if you have a favorite kind to pair with it. I like this with Sam Adams Cherry Wheat, but it might not be worth the extra calories to you! Besides, you definitely don't need alcohol to enjoy the meal.

Flavored Cheesy Crumble

1 oz. Cabot's 75% fat free white cheddar, shredded
2 T. shredded parmesan
1 cube Laughing Cow cheese wedges, diced -- pick any flavor you like! I used Garlic Herb
1/2 t. cajun seasoning
1/4 t. garlic salt

Mix together until crumbly! Use to top anything from soups to salads to chili -- melt this on an English muffin in the morning for breakfast, even. Or make a big batch and top some otherwise plain muffins with this, just before baking.

Spicy Corn Muffins

Preheat your oven to 350, and spray a muffin tin. These are 3 pts. each on WW.

1 C. flour
1 C. corn meal
2 t. baking powder
1 t. salt
1 T. Mrs. Dash, any flavor (I like the Italian medley)
1 T. Old Bay or Cajun seasoning (for mild or spicy flavor!)
1/2 T. garlic powder
dash of black pepper

Combine these dry ingredients in a medium bowl and create a well in the center. Then move on (using a new bowl) with the wet ingredients:

1/3 C. corn oil
3 T. honey
1 large beaten egg
1 C. 2% milk (I've also used half-and-half, we won't discuss why or how... It was fine, though!)
1 T. hot peppers (omit this if you want plain corn muffins)

Combine all and pour into the well. Mix into a dough, then stir in:

1/2 C. corn kernels, either fresh or frozen and thawed
2 T. chopped chives
Also, if you have any fresh parsley, oregano or basil from your garden, chop up a tablespoon or two and add in for extra flavor.

Using an ice-cream scoop, evenly fill your 12 muffin spots. The ice-cream scoop make your muffins perfectly measured, for one thing (nice to know your proportions for those os us counting our calories!), and also for a neatly domed top, for those of us with more severe OCD.

Bake until tops are golden brown, about 20 -- 25 minutes.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Yummy Spanish Paprika Chicken

Thank goodness that there will always be new things to do with chicken! This recipe was originally found, I believe, in Cooking Light or Redbook though it was called something nicer (aren't they always called something nicer in the magazines?).

This is an easy, quick recipe to spice up that pound of chicken you've got in the freezer. It's great for an evening when you just don't even feel like pre-heating the oven. Serve this with a little brown rice and some corn or another nice veggie, and you've got a really simple, hearty meal. The heat this dish gets from the paprika isn't spicy hot, but you can certainly heat things up by using extra seasonings! Otherwise, serve as is.

Spanish Paprika Chicken

You'll need:
1 t. paprika
black pepper (to taste); crushed red pepper (for spicy)
4 -- 5 bone/skinless chicken breasts, about 3 oz. each
2 t. extra virgin olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 C. chopped green olives
14 oz. can of diced tomatoes and green chiles, undrained
3 slices proscuitto, finely chopped (about 1/4 C.)
2 T. fresh chopped parsley (I like this with the flat leaf kind)
2 T . grated parmesan

Heat a large skillet over medium high heat and add your proscuitto. Heat until just barely brown and crispy, then remove to a plate and add in the parsley and parmesan cheese. Keep warm. Meanwhile, keep your skillet over medium heat and add the 2 t. of oil.

Combine your paprika and pepper and sprinkle all over both sides of chicken. I usually sprinkle one side, toss it face-down in the pan and then do the other side. This seems to make better use of the spices. Add the seasoned chicken to your pan and cook about 4 minutes, flipping once. Add your garlic and cook another minute, flip your chicken again. Add olives and tomatoes, bringing the whole mixture to a boil. Reduce heat and then simmer for 6 -- 10 minutes, until chicken is completely cooked through.

Place a chicken breast on each plate, top with 1/2 C. of the sauce, then sprinkle with about 2 T. of the proscuitto/parsley/cheese mixture. Declicious! I usually cut mine up into my rice, and it feel like a ridiculous load of food, but so good! This makes about 4 servings, and you can easily adjust that by just including fewer or more chicken breasts and topping the breasts with a little more/less sauce as necessary. Each serving is 6 pts on WW, or about 310 calories.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

New Beefy Potato Casserole!

Well, ya'll, the temperatures here in Dixie just dropped below 50 this morning, so I know that Fall is good and here. I don't think I'm the only one that craves warm comfort casseroles and soups when the cold weather hits! This recipe is great for using up some stock items in your friedge, like that frozen pound of beef and those last few potatoes in the bag. It's just simple and homey, but really warm and filling on a cool fall evening. It's 8 pts on WW (370 calories, 14 g. of fat and 5 grams of fiber). I was inspired by the Greek moussaka casserole, but I toned it down and used ultra lean beef as my meat. Serve it with hot bread and some green beans and you've got a great meal.

Potato Beef Moussaka

Preheat your oven to 350 and coat a 13 x 9 pan with cook spray.

You'll need:
2 lbs baking potatoes, cut into 1/4 " slices (about 4 medium potatoes), peeled or not as preferred
1 medium onion, chopped
1 carrot, diced
2 garlic cloves
1 lb. lean ground beef
1 8 oz. jar diced pimentos, drained
8 oz. no-salt tomato sauce
1 t. salt, pepper to taste
1 t. cumin
1/2 t. cinnamon (this is what makes this recipe so good! It brings a wonderful heat and fall spiciness to your mouth with each bite)
1/2 C. finely chopped parsley (I like flat-leaf in this recipe)
1 C. 1% milk
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
garlic salt, to taste
2 oz. feta cheese

Heat a large skillet over medium and coat with cook spray. Add potato slices in batches of thirds until they've all been browned, about 4 -- 5 minutes per batch. Keep warm.

Recoat the skillet with spray and then add onion, carrot, garlic, and beef to your pan. Cook about 4 minutes until beef is browned, then add pimentos, sauce, seasonings and parsley. Cook until bubbly, about 10 minutes.

Arrange half the potatoes at the bottom of the pan, then cover with the meat sauce and about 1 oz. of the feta. Cover with the remaining potatoes, then the rest of the feta. Next, combine your eggs with the milk and garlic salt. When lightly mixed, pour over entire casserole evenly. Bake for 30 minutes until feta is lightly bronwed and filling has set. Let it settle about 10 minutes before serving.

This makes 6 servings and is great as leftovers for the rest of the week! If you have a lot leftover, you can freeze it for later.

Monday, September 29, 2008

The Deb Discovers Polenta!

Who knew what a delicious little snacky cake baked polenta makes?! Oh, I guess the rest of the world had figured this out. Ooops. My local store even had flavored polenta!

Also, this recipe takes all of 10 minutes to prepare, so don't give yourself a half-hour like I did. I was standing over the shrimp, glaring at them with my Deb-ray vision in an effort to keep them warm while waiting for my husband to get home.

Parmesan, Paprika and Polenta!

Go ahead and preheat your broiler.

You'll need:

1 T. olive oil
1 lb. peeled/deveined medium shrimp
1/4 white wine
1 T. chopped chives
1 T. lemon juice
1 T. papkrika
dash of garlic salt, Old Bay (to taste)
1 16 oz. tube polenta (I used the dun-dried tomato flavor, and boy was it good with this recipe!), cut into 8 even (about 1/2") slices
cook spray
8 spoonfuls of marinara sauce
8 spoonfuls of shredded parmesan cheese
1 T. chopped parsley

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add in your shrimp and cook max maybe 3 minutes until just done, pink and curled. Remove from heat, stir in wine, chives, lemon juice and seasonings, tossing to coat. Keep warm (with laser eyes if necessary).

Place polenta slices on sprayed cookie sheet and top each slice with one spoonful each of sauce and then cheese. Broil 3 or 4 minutes until the cheese is melty. Top each serving with your shrimp mixture and sprinkle all over with parsley!

This is perfect with just a salad or maybe a little rice. Polenta, you just made yourself a friend.

The recipe is only 230 calories, with 5 grams of fat, 2 grams fiber. That makes it only 6 pts on Weight Watchers, and the polenta is deliciously filling!

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Pasta in Sun-dried Tomato Cheese Sauce

There is just nothing like a nice warm bowl of pasta, if I'm craving comfort food! In fact, when I was young, that was what I always wanted on days I stayed home sick from school, rather than chicken noodle soup. I didn't even need any sauce, just a little butter and parmesan cheese (from the green canister, no less! Blech!).

This recipe is so fresh tasting and good, yet you can throw it together in about 20 minutes. It's perfect for four modest servings, and I serve it with just some freshly baked bread. Each serving (a heaping cup) is 7 points on WW (around 330 calories, 8 g fat, 5 g fiber). So make yourself a big ol' bowl of pasta and snuggle in to enjoy the nice fall weather comin' up!

Pasta in Sun-dried Tomato Cheese Sauce

You'll need:

8 oz. Whole Wheat ziti (or similar -- I use whatever vaguely tubular pasta I have open, since this recipe only calls for 8 oz)

1/2 t. extra virgin olive oil

1 C. sun-dried tomatoes, thinly sliced in strips (I buy the dried variety and then reconstitute them with boiling water; they're less expensive than the ones packed in oil, which I always have to rinse thoroughly anyway, to save calories)

2 scallions, chopped

2 oz. canadian bacon, chopped (Optional -- you can let this stay a totally vegtarian meal, if you prefer, or substitute chicken or even shrimp, just be sure to use a small amount of the meat so that your calories don't jump too high)

pinch of salt, crushed red pepper -- to taste

1 minced garlic clove

6 T. fat-free half and half

3 0z. crumbled gorgonzola cheese (now, if this cheese is too strong or if you just don't like it, swap it out with fresh parmesan or romano)

1 C. fresh spinach, rinsed

Cook up your pasta and drain. Don't worry about keeping it warm -- it's going back into a skillet for a heat-up in the sauce later anyhow.

Heat your oil over medium heat in a large skillet, then add in your tomatoes, scallions, your bacon (if using), seasoning, and garlic. Cook just a minute, until fragrant. Stir in half and half and cheese, stirring constantly, letting the cheese melt and thicken the sauce. Stir in spinach and pasta and cook until spinach is wilted.

This is so good, and perfect for a busy work night when you crave something homey and good but don't have a lot of time.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Summery Chowder

This recipe is perfect in the summer-time, for all that it's a soup. It's perfect for a rainy summer day indoors, which was yesterday to a T. It's also a quick soup to make, and just bursting with fresh flavor. Make sure you get local, fresh corn and hunt for some whole wheat bread bowls -- they're worth it for the extra fiber and texture!

There are 4 servings, about 1 1/2 cups per serving, and each serving of chowder is 4 WW points, about 230 calories, while the bread bowl will vary.

Summery Chowder

You'll need:

2 smallish Yukon potatoes
cook spray
1/2 C. celery
1 large shallot, chopped
2 -- 3 pieces corn on the cob, kernels removed with knife
1 small jar diced pimentos
3 -- 4 sun-dried tomatoes, diced
4 oz. diced Canadian bacon
2 C. skim milk
salt, pepper to taste
Tabasco sauce, to taste

Bread bowls

Puncture your potatoes and put them on high in your microwave for about 8 minutes, rotating. Allow to cool, then you're going to peel and mash them in a little bowl.

Coat a large sauce pan with spray, then add celery, shallot, corn, pimentos and tomatoes. Saute over medium high for 5 minutes until all is tender. Stir in bacon and milk, then add mashed potatoes. Mix well, then season to taste; stir and combine. Cover and simmer, just under a boil, for at least 10 minutes. You can leave it on low heat until ready to serve, if needed.

Scoop into bread bowls, then top with sliced green onions and shredded low-fat cheddar. Serve with the removed tops of the bread bowls toasted to dunk with. Delicious and filling!

You can replace the veggies in this with any of your favorites. I think that broccoli would be great, as would fresh bell peppers.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Sirloin in Shallot Sauce with Fries

My poor husband has just gotten over some dental surgery, so he's been eating very squooshy food for a while! To celebrate his stitches coming out with "real" food (to my husband, this means BEEF), I made this slightly modified version of Cooking Light's more elegantly titled, "Steak Frites with Shallot Pan Reduction." It was delicious and, either because of its deliciousness or my husband's delirium at being served real food, he begged for it to become a staple in our house. Hey, this makes 4 servings, with 330 calories per serving, 7 g of fat, and 3 g of fiber -- 7 pts on WW.

Sirloin in Shallot Sauce with Fries (a much more humble title, thus one I'm more likely to attempt again when I see it in my recipe book!)

First, preheat your oven to 450 and spray two large bake sheets with spray. Make sure your oven racks are fully divided -- one on the top-most rack, one on the lowest.

You'll need:

2 large potatoes, sliced into 1/2 " sticks (I leave the skin on because you get a lot more fiber and nutrition that way, but feel free to peel the potatoes if you like!)
Cooking spray
3/4 t. kosher salt, divided
2 t. fresh chopped thyme, divided (I didn't realize that I had run out of fresh thyme, so I used dried and it was just fine!)
1/2 t. black pepper
cajun seasoning, to taste (optional)
1 lb. sirloin, trimmed, boneless
2 T. finely chopped shallots
2 T. brandy (I use cherry brandy when making a meat sauce; off-sets the taste unusually and nicely)
3/4 C. low-sodium beef broth
1 T. dijon mustard
1 T. Fat Free Butter spray

Arrange your potato sticks single-layer on the sheets, lightly spray with cook spray and then sprinkle with 1/4 t. kosher salt, and cajun seasoning, if you desire. Bake on 450 for about 15 minutes, then swap locations of your bake sheets in the oven. Bake another 15 -- 20 minutes until golden brown. Toss them with half the thyme when they come out and keep them warm.

Heat a big skillet over medium-high heat. Coat pan with cook spray. Sprinkle steak 1/4 t. salt/pepper and then add to hot pan. Saute about 3 minutes per side for medium rare. Remove from pan and keep warm.

Add shallots to pan and saute for 2 minutes. Add brandy, bring to a boil, then add broth, mustard, and the remaining thyme; bring to a boil. Cook until reduced, about 3 minutes. Add remaining salt and pepper, then whisk in butter spray. Slice warm steak and fully heat in the sauce. Serve with sauce lightly drizzled over the fries.

Serve with an easy, quick vegetable, like steamed 'gus or green beans! Delicious!!

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Breakfast Ideas

The Deb has a serious weakness for women's magazines. There are few things as enjoyable as popping some low-calorie popcorn and lolling on the couch with a frivolous magazine. Now, while I don't condone the overall message of these magazines (You're Fat! You should pleasure your husband more often!* No One Likes You Unless You Weigh 4 lbs! Why Can't You Buy More $500 Pairs of Shoes?!), I have noticed that they all have one thing in common when talking about weight loss -- they all tell you to have breakfast.

When your Deb was in high school, she remembers that the wrestling coach actually told his boys to SKIP breakfast... when they were trying to GAIN weight! So surely between old Coach Hunt and every women's magazine on the planet, they're on to something.

And I don't know about you, but I despise when a recipe book extols a breakfast idea s "quick!" when it involves Bisquick. Quick = the time it takes to toast something, not the time it takes to preheat an oven, prepare a recipe and then bake it. And the Deb is a busy girl, as she images ya'll to be. She is busy putting her face on in the morning -- she saves her suave supper skills for, well, supper time.

Therefore, the Deb recommends that you do, certainly eat breakfast. And you should probably skip those weird sugary breakfast bars. Instead, I find it infinitely more satisfying to toast something -- it makes you feel like you're cooking, but doesn't take much time, and smells like real food. I'm partial to the Thomas English Muffins. They have 100 calorie ones, and, my favorite, the light multi-grain. These have lots of fiber and are still as crumbly and delicious as anything. Plus, only around that same 100 calorie mark. So toast yourself a nice English muffin OR two slices of white-wheat bread -- both options are only 1 pt. on WW, around 100 calories (for two slices of the bread). Spray it with some fat free butter spray before toasting, and then top with one of the following for a complete, easy breakfast that will make itself while you're busy making important wardrobe decisions:

Savories -- each topping only an addition point on WW or around 100 calories:

2 tsp. Reduced Fat Peanut Butter -- tons of protein, delicious and filling

1/4 ripe avocado, mashed with a little lemon juice and garlic salt -- high in the "good" fat, and incredibly filling, very savory

1 1 oz. slice of Canadian bacon, topped with a teeny bit of shredded Parmesan cheese -- if you have a toaster oven, just toss the slice in there while you're toasting your English muffin and it'll cook to just the right warm temp. Then you've got a nice little sandwich for breakfast!

1 oz. Reduced Fat cheddar cheese, melted onto the toasted bread (either in the microwave or with a toaster oven), with a little pepper on top -- so savory and good. Like the cheese toast of your childhood without the guilt!

Sweeties -- also only an additional point on WW (on top of your bread choice)

1/2 banana, sprinkled with a pinch of cinnamon and sugar -- sweet but good for you! Loads of potassium!

1 T. any sugar-free jam or jelly -- nice and sweet, great for days on the run. Also, did you know it's better for your metabolism if you eat your sweets earlier in the day? The sugar has an easier time of processing within your system if you've got all day to do it.

1/4 C. fresh raspberries, strawberries, or blackberries, squeeze of lemon juice, sprinkled with a pinch of powdered sugar -- again, sweet and delicious without the calories of french toast. Plus you get a nice amount of antioxidants from the darker berries and a fruit serving! You can totally use frozen, too. Just defrost a handful the night before in your fridge.

3 slices apple, drizzled with low-fat maple syrup -- Apples have more goodness in them than we really know what to do with. This is a perfect start for what's bound to be a hectic day!

So happy Breakfasting, lovelies! It's an important meal and eating early will help you not over-indulge from starvation later on. Don't just chug that coffee; enjoy one of these genuinely easy little morning treats!

* MORE often?! Please. That poor boy would explode.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Corn! Glorious CORN!

Maybe's it's my glorious Southern heritage, but as soon as summer peaks his head in, the Deb is wild for sweet delicious corn. My local Teet carries local produce whenever they can, and frequently I am able to get farmer's market quality, fresh, wonderful corn at the grocery store! Ask your local produce person what the store policy is on local produce, or find yourself a local farmer's market. Fresh summer corn is not to be missed, ya'll.

While the Deb has been known to make high calorie deliciousness with her corn (her daddy's favorite corn pudding comes to mind, or fried corn cakes), truthfully there is very little that needs to be done to corn to make it delicious, and this is great news for those of us watching our waistlines! Here's my no-fail recipe for easy corn to use as a side for BBQs and down-home suppers all summer -- quick! Fall will be here before we know it!

Simply Steamed Corn

You'll need:

a veggie steamer (the Deb got hers in a give-away from that same local grocery store!)
1 -- 2 inches water, plus splash of milk
4 ears of white or yellow sweet corn, unpeeled
Fat free butter spray (Parkay or I Can't Believe it's Not Butter! You can also use margarine)
garlic salt and pepper, to taste

Ok. Fill your steamer pan with water, just an inch or two, and then add a splash of milk. This will plump your corn kernels. Next, place the steamer basket on top, cover and heat to boiling/steaming. And important thing to remember with corn is what my great Aunt Lynn taught me: you never shuck corn until the second you're going to cook with it. I don't know why this works, but it's absolutely true. Corn is more sweet, plump and delicious when you hold off shuckin' those ears "nekkid" (do you know any southerners who actually know how to pronounce the word, "naked?") until the last minute. So. Right before you add the corn to your steamer, shuck them, cut off the rough ends, and spray all sides with butter spray and then add all ears to the steamer. Steam only about 5 -- 7 minutes, until bright colored and with sweaty beads on the kernels. Sprinkle with seasonings while still warm.

I put out extra butter and salt for my husband, who can eat a hot air balloon full of cookies and not gain an ounce, but I like mine just as it is when it comes out fresh from the steamer. Because of the light topping and seasonings, a whole ear is only 2 points on WW or about 150 calories. And an ear is a lot of corn, guys. You can totally get away with half an ear and feel totally full.

Also, if you have any leftover corn, slice it off the cob immediately and freeze. It'll be an amazing addition to fall dishes and even winter soups down the line!

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Crock Pot Chicken Paprikash

The Deb knows she's been AWOL for a while, but it's been a real emergency, kids! She's gotten all your cards, letters and emails, begging for more, so she's back, don't you worry. Sometimes, when maintaining an active lifestyle and good eating habits, it's important to go with what you know, and this, sadly for you (loyal readers), means that the Deb just goes on auto-pilot. She makes all her tried-and-trued dishes with some repetition, in order to stay the course. There hasn't been anything good and new to share with ya'll, no matter how much she loves you! But now she's back with a new chicken recipe that you're gonna love -- it's so easy and so creamy delicious.

Crock Pot Chicken Paprikash

You'll need:

cooking spray (go ahead and spray your crock pot)
2 C. mushrooms, chopped
1 small onion, chopped
1 small garlic clove, minced
1 small jar pimentos, chopped, drained
1 T. paprika
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 C. chicken broth
1 lb. chicken tenders, uncooked, in long strips
1 T. flour
1/2 C. Fat free sour cream

Coat a skillet with your cooking spray and heat over medium. Add mushrooms, onion, garlic and pimentos (this drives my poor husband crazy because it smells so good and yet dinner isn't for another 6 hours! If this happens to you, do what I do and make him a nice omlette for lunch using a few of the ingrediants); saute 5 minutes. Stir in spices and cook another minute. Spoon all this into a crock pot and add the broth. Add in the chicken and cover, cooking for 5 -- 6 hours on LOW.

Just before supper time, make yourself a nice loaf of bread and while that's cooking, stir together the flour and sour cream -- this will keep the cream from curdling when heated. Trust me: few things are as actively disgusting as curdled sour cream. Stir this into your chicken mixture, cover and cook another 10 minutes, perfect for while your bread is cooking.

Spoon yourself a big helping of 1 1/2 C. (makes about 4 servings) and it's only 215 calories (4 WW points), loaded with flavor and goodness. Sop up the extra creaminess with your bread!

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Pork Stir-Fry

Wok this Way, Devotees of Dainty Cooking!

This is such a terrific recipe, and it really takes about 10 -- 15 minutes to do, thanks to the miracle of frozen veggies. Also, I usually buy a more-standard 2-lb pork tenderloin, and then I freeze half to use for kebabs or cutlets. This stir fry bursts with flavor, though, and the crunchy veggies are just perfect in this warm, slightly sweet sauce.

Pork Stir-Fry

You'll need:

1 lb. lean pork tenderloin, chopped into small chunks or in long strips, to your preference
2 t. peanut or sesame oil
4 minced cloves of garlic
1 T. grated ginger (I like to grate it fresh, but you can use dried ginger, just use less since dried herbs/spices tend to be more intense)
1 t. red pepper flakes (optional)
1 lb. frozen stir-fry veggies (pick a big bag of your favorites!)
1 t. cornstarch
1/4 C. water
1 t. orange marmalade*
3 T. reduced-sodium soy sauce
1 t. rice vinegar (you can totally use regular vinegar)
1 T. unsalted soy nuts (you can substitute pine nuts or sesame seeds if you like)

Get your wok or a big skillet all heated up, over medium-high heat. Add in 1 tsp of the oil and brown your pork until just done. Reserve and keep warm. Add in your other t. of oil and then the garlic, ginger and pepper flakes (if using). Let these get blended and fragrant, about 1 -- 2 minutes. Then toss in your frozen, un-thawed veggies. These will need to cook until thawed, about 6 -- 8 minutes. Stir occasionally, making sure they get good and coated with the ginger and garlic. Meanwhile, mix up your cornstarch and water. When your veggies are soft, add in the soy sauce, vinegar, marmalade and cornstarch mixture, and then bring it all to a boil. Finally stir in your pork and let it all get heated together. Top with soy nuts and serve over warm brown rice!

Also, I have found these wonderful egg rolls by Kahiki, in the frozen section of your grocery store! The vegetable egg rolls are only 70 calories each and they're really crunchy and good, so have those baking while you're whipping up this very easy stir-fry. It's only 5 pts on WW, so about 275 -- 325 calories.

* I ran out of orange marmalade and didn't realize when I started cooking last night! Story of my life... Anyway, I mixed up 1/2 t. of reduced fat peanut butter, 1/2 t. of honey and a splash of lemon juice and used that as a substitute, and HONEY, it was GOOD.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Beef Stroganoff

This is one of my husband's very favorite dishes, and who can blame him? It's creamy, rich and involves noodles! I always think of it as gourmet Hamburger Helper. This version is nice and lean, making it only 6 WW points per serving, about 375 -- 400 calories, and it makes 4 nice-sized helpings. This is also a recipe I'm particularly proud of, since he's never figured out that it's low calorie.

Beef Stroganoff, the Dainty Way

You'll need:

6 oz. egg noodles, cooked, drained and kept warm
10 oz. lean beef loin, cut in long strips.
1 thinly sliced, small onion
2 C. sliced mushrooms (I love to use baby bellas for this!)
1 T. unsalted butter
4 t. flour
1 C. low-sodium beef broth
1 t. Dijon mustard
1/2 t. each paprika, salt, fresh ground pepper
1/4 C. light sour cream

Brown your beef in a large skillet and transfer to a good-sized plate. Spray the skillet with Pam (or similar) and saute the onion and mushrooms until soft and fragrant. Transfer these to the beef plate. Keep that plate warm!

Next, melt your butter and gradually sprinkle in the flour. Cook, stirring, until bubbly. Slowly stir in the broth, then add mustard and seasonings. Cook, stirring, until nice and thick. Finally stir in the sour cream, and combine well into the sauce. Add in your beef plate, and let them get heated through.

You can either serve this over the noodles or stir the noodles into the skillet at the last minute and get everything nice and combined. I sprinkle each plate with freshly chopped parsley and serve with some whole wheat rolls and a big salad!

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Easy Bread Spread

This is one of my very favorite Dainty tricks: I buy a nice loaf of "Take and Bake" bread (get the whole wheat kind for extra fiber!) from the bakery of my grocery story (the beloved Harris Teeter) and dress it up for company. This spread I created the other night is delicious and easy. You can make huge batches of it and refrigerate it -- as I used to do with the full-fattening version I once made. It's only 1 point on WW, and around 100 calories (estimated). Plus the whole Wheat bread, that makes an easy and delicious 3 points for 1/4 a slender loaf!

Bread Spread

Preheat your broiler to 500.

You'll need:

1 baked baguette, whole wheat, preferably
1/2 lemon: the zest and juice
1 -- 2 oz Feta cheese (you can use flavored or regular, depending on what flavor medley you want with the main dish)
1 triangle of "Laughing Cow" lite cheese -- any flavor!
1 -- 2 T. minced garlic (to taste)
freshly chopped basil, parsley or chives -- about 1 -- 2 T. each, or whatever you may be in the mood for.
1/4 C. fat-free butter spray (Parkay or I Can't Believe It's Not Butter, or you can substitute margarine of any brand, so long as it's softened before you toss it in the food processor)

This is a recipe full of variables, which you can use to your advantage. If you want to make a garlic bread, then use more garlic, and season it with chopped chives and parsley, plus use the garlic flavored Laughing Cow cheese. If you want a lighter, herbier taste, go with plain cheese, chopped basil and then add a little salt and pepper. Be creative! If I'm serving a heavy, flavorful dish, I go with a plainer bread, whereas if I'm serving a more bland pasta dish, I serve the garlic flavor.

First slice your baguette down its full-length so you've got two long, even halves of the loaf. Then gently score each half into 8 equal portions (so you can easily cut it into pieces later, and also to allow the spread to melt into these cracks). Now toss your lemon zest, juice, and cheese into the food processor and let them get good and blended. Finally blend in the butter substitute (or margarine) and get the spread nice and combined (using your spatula to smoosh down unruly ingredients if necessary in the blending process). Take the spread and divide it, spreading each half evenly over your baguette halves. Then broil the bread 5 inches from the heat, about 5 minutes or until golden and bubbly.

This is so good, my husband always goes back for seconds, and he's not even a bread freak like I am!

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Tiny-Waist Tacos

This is such a great, easy supper that really does not reveal in any way that it's super light. My husband loves these tacos, and I let him pile his high with his own condiments, though I stick to reduced-fat sour cream and light cheese -- with lots of shredded lettuce! Also, I usually make some brown rice and mix in a cup of fresh or frozen/thawed corn in the last minute or two of boiling, plus some salt, pepper and paprika for an easy Spanish rice to go with these delicious, fulfilling tacos.

Tacos for a Teeny-Tiny Waist
You'll need:

8 taco shells, any brand, heated
2 T. chili powder
1 T. cumin
2 tsp. olive oil
2 tbsp. minced garlic
1 small onion, diced
8 oz. lean ground beef (you can definitely substitute chicken or ground turkey with this!)
8 oz. tomato sauce
8 oz. drained, rinsed kidney beans (or any other bean you like! You can use corn or peas, also)

First heat your tacos in the oven, according to package directions. Then heat a skillet over medium and add the cumin and chili powder, letting them toast for just 30 seconds until fragrant. Then add the oil and stir together with the spices, into a paste. Toss in the onion and saute until soft, about 3 minutes. Add the garlic and let it get warm, about 1 minute. Finally add in your beef and brown it all over. Then pour in the tomato sauce and beans, stirring until combined, letting all the flavors mingle, about 5 minutes.

I know this is only 6 points on WW for two tacos (around 350 calories), each with 1/4 C. meat filling and 2 T. of reduced-fat sour cream. I usually mix parsley and chives into the sour cream before dolloping for a nice extra zing. These are so good and delicious, and my husband is always so happy to come home to them!

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Chicken and Dumplings

Yesterday it was freakishly and suddenly cold, with a decidedly unpleasant cold rain crashing into the Deb's readiness for Spring and so I felt the urge to make some comfort food. My husband loves him some chicken and dumplings, and I use this recipe to make delicious dumplings of a low-fat variety. They're also great when a loved-one has a cold or the flu! They're warm and tasty and very low in fat/calories!

Chicken and Non-Dumpy Dumplings
You'll need:

1 1/4 lb chicken breasts, boneless skinless, cut into 1" chunks
2 T. flour
1/8 t. salt
1/8 t. pepper
2 t. canola oil
2 leeks, white and light parts online, thinly sliced
2 -- 3 shallots, thinly sliced
2 medium carrots, chopped
2 celery stalks (I use the leafy ones for extra flavor), chopped
1 bay leaf
1 t. thyme
2 1/2 C. low-sodium chicken broth
1/2 C. apple juice
1/2 C. fresh or frozen/thawed peas

Heat a large sauce pan over medium high heat. Meanwhile, take your chicken breasts and sprinkle them with a little salt and pepper, each side. Mix the flour, and the 1/8 tsps of salt and pepper together. Sprinkle 1 T. of this mixture onto the chicken. Heat oil in the sauce pan and then add the chicken. It should sizzle when it hits the heat! Brown the chicken to just barely golden, then remove to a plate. Into the same pan, toss in your leeks and shallots. Let them get soft and fragrant, about 4 minutes. Add in carrots, celery, bay leaf and thyme, stirring all together. Cook until flavors are combined, about 6 -- 8 minutes. Add in chicken broth, apple juice and reserved chicken. Bring to a boil and then let simmer, partially covered, for about 8 minutes.

Meanwhile, work on your dumplings ...

For Dumplings:
2 T. flour
2 T. cornmeal
3/4 t. baking powder
1/4 t. salt
1 T. chopped parsley
1/4 C. milk

Sift flour, cornmeal, powder and salt together. Stir in parsley gently. Slowly add in milk until just combined. As chicken mixture finishes simmering, plop tsp. of the dough into the hot, bubbly water. They'll swell up a bit, so spread them out. Cover, simmering for another 4 -- 5 minutes until cooked through, perhaps gently turning once. Add in peas and cook for another 2 minutes. Serve in 1 C. servings; serves 6. I serve this with some crusty bread slices or over brown rice. A perfect cold weather meal, very filling and extremely tasty. Only 4 pts. on WW, or about 250 calories.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Valentine's Day

I really do feel that if you try to stick to any sensible diet plan on 2/14, you will be thwarted by your co-workers, your girlfriends, your sweetheart and the world at large. The television box has made it very clear: Today you MUST eat delicious things in heart shaped boxes! Don't be one of those lame lady lovers who pitches a fit over the well-meaning box of truffles offered her because CLEARLY your significant other is trying to ruin your life/diet with chocolate... Take it as a compliment that he likes how you look enough to not even assume you're ON a diet! Politely eat a couple with him (who doesn't like to share something that comes in a heart-shaped box?!) and then take them to work tomorrow to share!

Me, I love Valentine's Day. I plan it as a deliberate cheat day and make sure to make my husband's favorite things. Also, I like to bring in food for the people I work with, since I always think it's a drag to have to work when you should be half naked somewhere covered in rose petals (or similar, whatever does it for you). That being said, I'm not a proponent of the commericialism that goes with V-day. I don't think it should be at all about expensive gifts or going out to eat. Write a personal love letter and make these delicious steaks instead!

Valentine's Day Office Cake
This is so easy! No baking and everyone is always impressed with the presentation!

1 store bought angel-food cake (though if you have a good recipe for angel food cake, go ahead and make your own!)
1 large tub frozen whipped topping, thawed
1 tsp. almond extract
red food coloring
1 16 oz. can cherry pie filling
1 16 oz. can strawberry pie filling
cinnamon hearts

First, using just one or two drops of red coloring, dye your whipped topping pink and add the almond extract.
Take your cake and cut it evenly into thirds, like a three-layer cake would be. Spread 1/3 cup of EACH filling (or more, to taste) on the first layer and then top generously with pink topping -- you want it to gently ooze out the sides when you press the second layer down on top. Repeat for layer #2 and then top with final layer. Now, make sure the cake is on it's serving tray (your cake carrying dish or what have you). Take remaining filling and pour into the center hole, filling to the top (don't let it overflow!). Cover with remaining whipped topping and thoroughly ice the top layer. Decorate with cinnamon hearts and serve.

Now for dinner with your darling...

Bacon Wrapped Filets

I finally have figured out how to make a decent steak -- considering that we don't have a full-sized grill. There was a time in my life that every piece of meat I slapped down in front of my husband was likely to "moo" at him.

4 medium filet mignons (I try to make four, since this is one dinner that you really want to enjoy twice, as leftovers. But if you're on a budget or just don't want to make this much meat, don't worry. You can simply buy two steaks. Everything else except the bacon will remain the same)
1 C. drinkable red wine (I like a Cabernet Sauvignon called "Dynamite"; I believe it's a California wine, but I'm not sure. My friend Megs is the wine expert)
1 T. Good Seasons garlic/herb flavor (these are the packets you buy near the salad dressings, if you're into making your own salad dressing)
1 T. freshly ground pepper

Trim the fillets of excess fat and on the sides of each, carve a little pocket into the interior of the steak. Then, pop into a plastic bag with a good seal on it. Add wine, seasonings and pepper. Marinade up to 8 hours, though even a good hour long soak will turn the steaks a pretty red color and add lots of flavor!
When you're ready to start cooking, first take the steaks out and let them get to room temp. You never want to toss a cold hunk of meat onto a hot pan. It won't cook evenly and you'll get a lot more smoke. Next, heat a sauce pan to screaming hot. This is important. Also, preheat your oven to 450. Make sure the pan you use is oven-safe! You're going to sear your steaks and then pop them in the oven in the same pan.

4 slices bacon
5 oz. blue cheese
3 oz. drained jarred mushrooms (I like the chopped portobellos)
1 t. Good Seasons

First gently brown the bacon. Don't cook it through, just barely get it started. Drain and let cool. Next, combine cheese with mushrooms and seasonings. Divide this mixture evenly and stuff into those little steak pockets you made. Wrap the bacon around each fillet (make sure sure sear the bacon's seam in the pan as soon as you place each steak onto the heat -- this will guarantee you that your bacon won't fall off in the middle of baking). Heat 1 -- 2 T. of oil in the hot Hot HOT pan and let it get good and hot. Drop your steaks in and prepare yourself for the smoke. Let them cook up a good "crust," searing for about 3 minutes. Flip your steaks and then, making sure there is NO EXCESS OIL in your pan (!!! house fires suck, ya'll), place the whole pan in your heated oven for about 10 minutes.
Finally, take the steaks out and place on a plate, then top each with a small pat of butter. Tent and let rest for 5 minutes before serving.

These are really ridiculously good, especially if your man likes a good steak. Hey, even if you're single, invite another single buddy over and treat them to a nice meal! They'll appreciate not being alone on V-Day, too. And you'll avoid the stupid crowds at restaurants, etc. tonight.

Be sure to buy a decent cut of meat. Ask your butcher if you're not sure. This is another excellent reason to get on good terms with the people who work at your grocery store. My butcher will even reserve special cuts of meat for me behind the counter if I tell him in advance I'll be cooking something special.

Otherwise, have a lovely Valentine's Day. Listen to your favorite music and open a bottle of wine while you cook.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Pork Tenderloin Roast

The Deb has a few life-affirming rules, one of which is, "if your diet doesn't allow you to have pork, bread or any other main staple of food from that 1950s pyramid, DITCH THAT DIET!!"

Also? The Deb loves pork. She's a southern girl through and through. Give her enough time and she'll slap bacon around everything in a kitchen. You found five dollars in a pants pocket? Wow! That could only be made better if the five dollars was wrapped in bacon!! Anyway. Pork is a great diet meat because so many cuts of it are nice and lean. This recipe is perfect for a Sunday because this is great to be cooking away for a nice post-church luncheon or just to brace yourself for the coming week.

Pork Tenderloin Roast
Preheat your oven to 400 and spray your roasting pan. Oh, and The Deb has a little trick about roasting pans -- if you don't feel like busting out your big guns (i.e. the huge roaster you use once a year for Thanksgiving turkey, etc.) just put a smallish wire cooling rack inside a 9 x 13 baking pan. This makes cleanup a lot easier and saves you the hassle of coaxing your enormous Calphalon roaster out of hiding.

You'll need:
2 lb. pork tenderloin, trimmed of all visible fat
2 t. olive oil
1 t. EACH: garlic salt, onion salt
2 T. EACH: fresh chopped basil, parsley, oregano and thyme. If you only have dry herbs, reduce size to teaspoons vs. tablespoons. Dried herbs are always more potent than fresh so you always use less!
a little more salt and freshly ground pepper, just to your own taste

Mix all your herbs together and then rub the oil onto the roast. Then rub in all the herbs, making sure to coat all sides of the roast. Then pop it in the oven for 30 -- 40 minutes. Let it settle for about 10 minutes before carving. Makes 6 servings amd goes perfectly with rice and a veggie side or salad. Also? Only 3 WW points, holy moly. So it's about 175 calories, and very low in fat. And it makes you feel all down-home with your bad self. Which is such a nice way to feel when it's so cold outside and you're still able to stick to a healthy, easy supper!

Saturday, February 2, 2008


The Deb isn't even sure that's a word.

Also, the Deb should probably admit that she's not a huge fan of uncooked broccoli. Its fuzziness...well, it upsets her. Cooked, however, and paired with cauliflower, well, that's a different story, weirdly.

You'll need:

3 C. broccoli florets
3 C. Cauliflower florets
(fresh is best, but you can use thawed frozen)
2 -- 3 T. fat free zesty Italian salad dressing
1/4 t. red pepper flakes (optional)
1 T. Fat Free Butter spray, heated and warm
2 T. fresh grated parmesan cheese
salt and pepper to taste

Bring a big pot of salted water to a boil and add the veggies. Boil for 3 minutes and then drain. Toss hot veggies with salad dressing, butter spray, seasonings and cheese. Serve warm.

This was only 1 point for WW, and under 100 calories. I had some leftover pork tenderloin and some brown rice, and I mixed those two together with these veggies for a really tasty, quick supper last night from leftovers just hanging out in my fridge.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Green Beans with Chickpeas

Good Gravy, Paula Deen! You must be readin' my blog! Here's a Paula Deen recipe from her delightful magazine, for some delicious beans and peas which are only 1.5 WW points or only about 170 calories per serving! The Deb doesn't have to tell you a) how much I love Paula Deen and/or b) how homey and delicious these are coming from her kitchen.

Green Beans with Chickpeas

You'll need a big old Dutch Oven (or the enormous Calphalon sauce pot, which is what I used) and also:

2 C. reduced sodium Chicken Broth
1 C. chopped onion
1 t. minced garlic
2 (16 oz) packages frozen green beans, thawed
1 16 oz can chickpeas (my mother dislikes chickpeas, so I suggested corn as a substitute, and I imagine any other bean you fancy would work nicely here, too)
2 t. lemon zest
1 T. fresh lemon juice
1 t. garlic salt
1 t. fresh parsley
1/2 t. salt
1/4 t. ground white pepper (you can use regular pepper, but use about 1/2 t. since black pepper isn't as strong as the white)
3 T. butter (hurrah for real butter! In small amounts, I can really taste it and it's a big treat)

In the Dutch oven, combine broth, onion and garlic; bring to a boil over high heat. Boil 10 minutes. Stir in green beans and chickpeas, reduce heat, simmer for 6 minutes. Stir in lemon zest, juice and seasonings. Add butter, stirring until melted.

Mmm. These were so good. It makes 8 servings, but I just gobbled down the last helping with lunch -- they don't last long!

Saturday, January 19, 2008

More Seafood!

Well, loyal readers, if you like seafood, you're in a for a big, fat (but non-fattening!) treat today! I've several new recipes to share AND some news!

I have been inspired by fellow-bloggeur and food-watcher, Jelly Kean. Please go have a gander at her very funny site, and let it inspire you all to start your own weight-loss blogs! Anyway, what really inspires me about JellyKean is that she's brave. Oh, yes. Much braver than the Dainty Deb, who safely hides behind her massive picture collection of pin-up girls. JellyKean is actually going to post a picture of her hiney sans couture on her birthday if she's not raised a certain amount of money for a hunger charity. Hats (and, obviously, undergarments) off to JellyKean!

While I'd love to something similar, this is a family site (read: my mom reads this) and I'm frankly just not brave enough to bare my assets on the web. SO, what I WILL do, in honor of JellyKean's remarkable bravery and in thanks for her inspiring me to keep up with my own weight loss/maintenence, is post a picture of myself on my birthday, just not in my birthday suit -- in a bikini. Hey, I think that's fair. I'll have it taken just like one of my beloved pin-up girls, and my mom will still not have a heart attack. If I can lose 10 lbs and maintain that loss, you all will finally get a glimpse of the real Deb. August 10th, 2008. I promise.

That being said, here is some delicious seafood with low-calorie and low-fat counts!

Corn Chowder with Grilled Citrus Shellfish
Totally stole this from the February issue of Redbook! It's so delicious! And pretty! I had to take a picture!

You'll need:
8 large deveined/shelled shrimp
8 large sea scallops
1 vanilla bean, seeds well-scraped (if you can't get a a vanilla bean, use 1 tsp. of vanilla extract. It's not the same, but it works)
Zest and juice of 1 SMALL orange (don't use a big orange! It will make your seafood taste like orange segments that have shellfish inside!)
4 C. thawed frozen corn kernels
1 4 oz. can green chilis, diced, drained (Redbook called for 2 cans of this, but that just seemed a bit much. And it'll turn your chowder greenish gray. Blech.)
1 C. chopped onion
1 t. EACH Cumin, Oregano
2 t. minced garlic
3 C. reduced-fat chicken broth
1/2 C. Fat-free half-and-half
1/3 C. chopped cilantro
16 oz. can fire-roasted diced tomatoes, drained really well
salt, pepper to taste
cook spray

Place your shellfish in a shallow bowl and add vanilla, zest and juice, brushing to make sure they're well-coated on each side. Let this sit at room temp while you make the chowder.
Coat a large pot with cook spray and head over medium high. Add corn, chiles, onion, spices and garlic. Cook about 5 minutes, letting the onion get translucent.
Add in your chicken broth and bring to a boil. Simmer at low for 15 minutes. Once it's simmered, either use a stick/immersion blender to puree it, or do what I did -- throw it all in your food processor and process the hell out of it. This is a lot of fun. Especially if you laugh maniacally between pulses. Anyway. Return to the pot and stir in half-and-half and 2 T. of the cilantro. Toss the remaining cilantro with your drained tomatoes for the topping.
While the chowder is reheating in your pot, make sure you've heated a grill pan over medium heat (you can also do this in a skillet, but it's easier to use skewers with a grill pan). Season shellfish with a little salt and pepper and coat pan with cook spray. Grill or cook about 2 minutes per side (you could also broil them, come to think of it)or until cooked through. You can use skewers or just divvy up the shellfish onto 4 beds of rice on your plates. Ladle the chowder out into 4 bowls and top with the tomato mixture. This was so warm and filling! It tasted just citrusy enough for us to crave summer, but the soup was just perfect for a chilly NC night. At only 275 calories per serving, and 2 grams of fat, you cannot feel bad about this! 5 WW points! OH, AND! 17 grams of protein! So go to the gym after!

And now, Chef Jim (my pal from the local Teet) has kindly given me his KISS Method for seafood, which I love and use all the time, so I know my readers will get a lot of use from it!

Chef Jim's KISS* Seafood

First select one pound of fish fillets from the following list:

Grouper, Halibut, Mahi Mahi, Salmon, Snapper, Tuna Steaks

Now, choose 2 T. of cooking oil from this list:

Butter (I use a fat free butter spray that cooks nicely on the stovetop), canola oil, flavored butter, Chef's Butter, Olive oil, Corn oil

Make sure you have some salt, pepper and Old Bay or 1 t. of blackening seasoning and 1/4 C. of whatever wine is on hand, that you already have open (I love a glass of wine while I cook!)

Sprinkle, salt, pepper and a little Old Bay (or, like Chef Jim does, use a blackening season) on flesh sides of fillets. Heat your oil/butter in a large skillet (make sure it's got a lid) over medium high. Place fillets seasoned side down and cook uncovered until a medium dark golden brown. Don't blacken! Who wants to eat something that looks like it's got tarred scales?! Turn fillets and then turn off heat for one minute, allowing the pan to cool (this makes for easy clean-up despite the wine you're going to add). Add wine and cover the pan. Cook on very VERY low heat for 3 minutes or until fish flakes when tested with a fork. This steams/poaches the fish for a little extra flavor!

I love this method and it really is easy. What I love is that it literally works with every fish I've ever tossed into my Calphalon. Thanks, Jim!

The second "s", Jim assures me, if for "sir" or "sweetie"... :)

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Crab Cakes

This was one of the very first dishes Deb made on her own. Inspired by a photo in an old Weight Watcher's cookbook, and in a bizarre phase where she coated all of her main dish meat with crushed corn flakes, this is the best of the Deb's early years -- trust her. Not-so-good contributions from this same time period include a freakishly salthy onion beef stew in the crock pot which screwed up the Deb and her husband's tastebuds for a solid week.

Anyway. I've never served this dish to anyone who remotely likes seafood and had them either a) dislike it or b) guess that it's low calorie. The secret is getting a good quality crab meat. Wait until your local grocery store has special pricing on crab. Be sure to get only Jumbo Lump. It really makes a difference in how well the cakes hold up while cooking!

Calorie-Friendly Crab Cakes
You'll need:

1 lemon
1 lb. Jumbo Lump Crab meat, picked over (if you get the meat fresh, vs. from a can, the easy way to get the shell bits out is to spread the crab in a single layer on a cookie sheet and bake on 350 for about 5 -- 10 minutes. It'll make the shell bits super easy to see and get rid of)
3 finely chopped scallions
1 Tbsp. dijon mustard
1/4 C. reduced calorie Mayo
3 drops tobasco sauce (optional)
1 T. Old Bay
1 t. dill
3 T. plain breadcrumbs
1 C. crushed corn flakes
2 T. canola oil

Grate about 1 T. of lemon zest off your lemon (only the yellow! Don't get down to the pith -- it's bitter as gall) and then squeeze said lemon into one big bowl. Add crabmeat, scallions, mustard, mayo, tobasco, Old Bay, dill, and breadcrumbs. Combine well and divide into 8 little crab balls. Shape each ball into a patty (be gentle but firm) and coat through corn flake crumbs. Cover your plate of crab cakes with plastic wrap and stick in the fridge to let get comfortable with their new condition for 15 minutes. This will really help when you get them in the hot pan -- they won't fall apart easily.

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium high and let it get good and hot. Then add in your crab cakes and cook about 7 minutes per side. The corn flakes should get nice and golden brown.

These are stupidly delicious and just the right texture for crabcakes. Not too crunchy, not too mushy. They pair well with brown rice and a simple spinach salad or any side vegetable. Only 6 WW points per cake, and about 300 calories.

Sunday, January 6, 2008


Happy New Year, loyal readers! Hope you got everything you wanted for the holidays! I bet that a lot of you are renewing weight-related resolutions and thus literally tightening your belts in preparation for this Spring and Summer, which will undoubtedly bring warm weather and a hot new YOU in skimpier clothing!

So before we get to the delicious homefries recipe, a word about New Year's Resolutions. They aren't complete crap, no matter how much money gyms and diet pills make off of the New Year pressure to lose weight and get fit. I quit smoking four years ago thanks to a New Year's Resolution, and I lost the weight I promptly put on (I ate my own body weight in Chex Mix thanks to nicotine cravings) similarly with another New Year's Resolution. The key is to not forget it come February. Think of yourself a full year from January -- at your parents house with all your family and friends, or at home throwing a swank party with homemade Dainties, or in some fabulous exotic destination for the holidays... Doesn't matter where you'll be, just imagine yourself THERE and healthier, slimmer and probably happier. Let yourself imagine all the compliments you'll be getting from old friends and new acquaintances. That's what the Deb does when she wrestles with the temptation to devour an entire box of peanut brittle.

So. That being said, it should also be noted that the weather has gotten a bit chillier outside. You probably won't be in the mood to grill up some low-calorie scallops or make a refrigerated chicken salad. I'm going to try and provide you with Winter Warmth recipes that will satisfy the post-holiday blues AND keep you on-track for whatever your New Year's goals may be!

This is a great side item for the colder months!


You'll need:

2 --3 Yukon potatoes, cooked in the microwave and sliced
1 onion, sliced
1 T. extra virgin olive oil
1 T. minced garlic
1 t. paprika
salt, pepper and Old Bay to taste
Butter flavored cook spray (i.e. Pam)
1 t. freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium high and add potatoes, onion and garlic. Cook until browned, about 5 minutes. Spray with cooking spray once during the cooking. Remove from heat and stir in seasonings and cheese. Serves 2 -- 3 (though this is an easy recipe to increase -- just bump up the number of potatoes you want to use and add extra seasonings). Only 2 Weight Watcher's points, and just under 200 calories per serving. These are great with just about anything, especially as a companion to nice seasonal main dishes like roasts and casseroles.