Monday, February 23, 2009

Bread Pizza

We used to have this all the time when I was little. French bread is probably the most common thing to use, but we used any kind of regular bread. And then topped with whatever was in the fridge - most often chopped up hot dogs or maybe bologna. Pepperoni when lucky.

Bread Pizza

Bread (1-2 slices of regular bread per person)
Meat (if you want)
Veggies (bell pepper, onion, tomato)
Pasta sauce, pizza sauce, or tomato paste (with a little water and pizza seasoning sprinkled in.)

- Preheat oven to 375.
- Place bread on a cookie sheet. Spread on tomato paste, and top with meat and veggies, then cheese.
- Cook for 5-10 minutes (until cheese is melted and bread is toasted)

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Chicken Quesadilla Pasta Roni

My best friend (also a grad student) pointed out that I don't have any Rice-A-Roni or Pasta Roni recipes on here. Honestly, I feel like Rice-A-Roni takes too much effort with the pre-cook and then add water, plus the flavors aren't as tasty to me. I do try to avoid foods with pre-mixed seasonings because they're so high in sodium, but I admit that I *love* Chicken Quesadilla Pasta Roni. Not plain, but with tasty stuff added. If you want to make this quicker, cheaper, easier, or just vegetarian, use 1 can of drained, rinsed black beans.

Fancied-up Chicken Quesadilla Pasta Roni
Serves 3-4

1 box Chicken Quesadilla Pasta Roni
1 1/4 c water
1 T margarine/butter
1/4 cup milk
1 cup corn (frozen or from a can)
1 chicken breast, trimmed and cut into small pieces
1/2 bell pepper, chopped (optional)

- If using chicken, brown in a small frying pan. Add salt, pepper, chili powder and cumin if you want.
- In a medium saucepan, bring water, milk and margarine to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low.
- Slowly stir in pasta and Speical Seasonings. Separate pasta with a fork, if needed. Boil uncovered.
- After about 5 minutes, add in chicken (or beans), corn and bell pepper.
- Boil a total of 7-9 minutes, or until pasta is tender, stirring frequently.
- Sauce will be thin. Do not overcook. Let stand 3 to 5 minutes for sauce to thicken.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Breakfast couscous

Similar to rice, couscous can be eaten sweet. I usually have this for breakfast, but really any time would be fine. The basic process is just as quick and easy - it's the additions that take longer. I've just listed "fruit" below because you can use whatever's on hand. I've used dates, raisins, cherries (really good, but pitting them was an awful pain), strawberries, and dried apricots. I bet apples and pears would be good, too.

Breakfast couscous
Serves: 4

1 cup couscous
1 cup water
3/4 cup milk
1/2 cup sugar (If you use dates, omit completely - can be left out with any fruit if you like)
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
3/4 -1 1/2 cup fruit
3/4 cup nuts (Almonds, walnuts, pecans, or cashews)

- Bring water to a boil. Remove from heat, add couscous, and cover.
- Chop fruit and nuts if necessary.
- After couscous has fully cooked (5 minutes) stir in milk, cinnamon, nutmeg, and fruit. Heat on medium, stirring occasionally until heated through.
- Add nuts right before serving.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Asparagus and Poached Eggs

This might be a breakfast recipe, but I made it for dinner last night. I always figured poached eggs were difficult and something that only old people eat, but it was actually really easy and tasted good! Asparagus is already in season here, which landed it in the "cheap" category. I suppose you're getting two for one here, because these are really separate things. The nutrition facts for the asparagus are going to depend on how you season it - I used Newman's Own light balsamic this time, but I've done black pepper, salt, and chili powder in the past.

Roasted Asparagus
Serves: 2-4 Prep time: 5 minutes Cook time: 5-8 minutes

1 lb Asparagus
Cooking spray and spices OR 2 Tbs Balsamic vinaigrette dressing

- Preheat oven to 425.
- Rinse asparagus and pat dry with a paper towel. Cut off the ends so that they don't look woody (like little holes).
- Place in dish (I use a 9x9 dish, but anything would work) and drizzle with dressing or spray with cooking spray and sprinkle on spices. Toss to coat.
- Bake in 425 oven for 5-8 minutes (should still be green and crisp, but easily stabbed with fork.)

Poached Eggs
Total ready time: 10-15 minutes

1 egg per person

- In a medium to large pot (depending on number of eggs) boil at least 3 inches of water.
- Once water is boiling, turn to low. Crack an egg into a cup with a handle and then gently lower the cup into the water so that it fills up and then tilt so the egg slides out. Repeat with all your eggs. Don't worry if they touch each other - mine ended up right on each other and were fine.
- Cover and let cook for 3-5 minutes (3 for runny yolk, at 5 my yolks were totally hard - the way I like it.)
- Scoop out eggs with a slotted spoon and serve.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Yogurt Hummus

I like hummus, which made this a great find for me. The yogurt replaces the oil and adds just a little tangy-ness. I do throw in a little olive oil because it adds flavor. You can put in some lemon juice if you like, too. Serve with pita bread or flour tortillas. The tortillas may not be authentic, but they are certainly cheaper.

Yogurt Hummus
Serves 4-8 Prep time: 5 min

1 (15.5 oz) can garbanzo beans
1 clove garlic, peeled
2/3 cup plain non-fat yogurt
1/4 teaspoon chili powder

Add all ingredients to a blender or food processor and blend until smooth.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Oatmeal Apricot Cookies

I made it! 14 days of desserts! Now that I have it out of my system, I will go back to regular food tomorrow. I was reluctant to post these cookies because they're not much healthier than a regular recipe, but Dan has called them the best I've made in a long time, so here they are! This one is from Cooking Light again (yes, I love their stuff) and you can find the original here, but I am copying and pasting it as well. I didn't much like the idea of toffee in my cookies, because I know it always melts and spreads. Instead, I used a cup of chopped, dried apricots. I got them cheap at a warehouse store. Whatever you use, be sure to really let the butter and sugar mix for a long time - this will keep the cookies from spreading too much and being super flat.

Oatmeal Apricot Cookies
Prep time: about 15 min. Makes: 2 dozen (serving size: 1 cookie)


3.4 ounces all-purpose flour (about 3/4 cup)
1 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 large egg
1/3 cup almond toffee bits (or 1 cup apricots)
Cooking spray

1. Preheat oven to 350°.

2. Weigh or lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flour, oats, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl; stir with a whisk. Place sugar and butter in a large bowl; beat with a mixer at medium speed until well blended (about 5 minutes). Add vanilla and egg; beat well. Add flour mixture; beat just until combined. Stir in toffee bits (*or apricot).

3. Drop dough by tablespoonfuls 2 inches apart on 2 baking sheets coated with cooking spray. Bake at 350° for 11 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool on pans 1 minute. Remove cookies from pans; cool completely on wire racks.

Nutrition info for one cookie: Cal: 90 Fat: 3.4 g (less if using dried fruit) Carbs: 14.6g Protein: 1.2g

Friday, February 13, 2009

Banana Split

Ok, I admit I am running low on ideas. But I like this one, even if it is a simple one. You can really put any fruit on top, but I like pineapple and strawberries since they are usually the flavors of syrup restaurants throw on top.

Banana Split
Serves: 1-2 Prep time: 10 min.

1 banana
1/2 cup frozen yogurt or lite ice cream
1/4 cup crushed pineapple
1/4 cup sliced strawberries
whipped topping
chocolate syrup

Cut the banana in half the long way. Put ice cream in two or three balls on top of banana. Top with fruit, whipped topping, and chocolate syrup.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Fast & Lite Fudge Sauce

I first made this for a birthday as a topping of a chocolate peanut butter cake that I topped with peanut butter M&Ms (which was absolutely delicious, by the way.) You can find the full recipe here, but the cake, filling, and topping done their way took a lot of time. Here is just the topping, which they have called ganache, but I think it's more like a fudge sauce. I have made it since and used it to top box-cake, but I let it simmer for extra time and it turns out that it will get much harder! It was good on cake, but it would also work well on fruit, especially if you let it simmer for a couple of extra minutes. The last step is to let it chill, but I found that for cake it wasn't necessary, and wouldn't be for fruit either.

Fast & Lite Fudge Sauce

2/3 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup evaporated fat-free milk
1 tablespoon butter
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 (1-ounce) squares bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Combine 2/3 cup granulated sugar and next 4 ingredients (through 2 ounces bittersweet chocolate) in a medium saucepan over medium heat; bring to a boil. Cook 2 minutes or until sugar dissolves and chocolate melts, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Stir in 1 teaspoon vanilla; cool completely. Chill 30 minutes or until thick.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Fancy yogurt fruit dip

Well, this one is just dressed-up fruit, but I think that the dip makes it fancy enough to be worth posting. If you wanted to make it really cool, you could cut the fruit into bite-size pieces and put it on a skewer like a fruit kabob! But that would add time, too. If you want to be more indulgent, have some caramel or chocolate on hand to drizzle over the top.

Yogurt fruit dip
Prep time: 5 min

1 (6-8 oz) container vanilla yogurt
3/4 cup whipped topping (your choice - low fat or even real cream)

Pour yogurt and whipped topping into a bowl. Gently stir to combine. Refrigerate until time to serve. Cut fruit into manageable pieces (strawberry halves, apple slices, etc.) and serve.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Cocoa Chewies

I have a friend who is crazy about these. This recipe is my version of the Whole Foods Cocoa Chewies. They are kind enough to list their ingredients, so I know it contains the same things even if my portions may be off. I made them with toasted pecans, since that's what our store has, but from reading others' posts about them, I gather that they are made with chocolate chips in other areas. I think that other nuts or dried fruit would work, too. I consulted several recipes, and tried two, but below has enough additions and adjustments that I think I'm safe calling it my own. Do be careful about the egg whites, but don't stress if they're not perfect.

Cocoa Chewies

Prep time: 10-15 min. Cook time: 15 min Makes: 9 big cookies or 18 smaller ones
[small batch ingredient amounts in brackets]

3 egg whites [1]
1/2 cup cocoa [3 tablespoons]
2 1/4 cup powdered sugar [3/4 cup]
3/4 cup pecans [1/4 c] (optional - could leave out, or add chocolate chips, craisins, walnuts etc.)

- Preheat oven to 325.
- Combine cocoa and powdered sugar in a small bowl. In a large bowl, beat egg whites with electric mixer on medium until foamy - about one minute. Continue with mixer and slowly add in sugar mixture, about 1/5 at a time, adding when the previous amount has been incorporated.
- Mix until the egg makes soft peaks (when you pick up the mixer, you'll be able to see where the beaters were. If you mix it to stiff peaks, it's ok, they will be more meringue-like. If you mix it too short, they will still taste great, but will be more difficult to remove from the pan.) Gently fold in pecans or other add-in.
- Drop by large spoonfuls onto a baking sheet that has been greased, lined with parchment paper, or a silicone mat. Bake for 15 minutes. Cookies will be shiny and a bit cracked, though still soft.

Nutrition info (1/9 of recipe without pecans): Cal: 133 Fat: 0.7 g Carbs: 33 g Protein: 2 g
Nutrition info (1/9 of recipe with pecans): Cal: 139 Fat: 7.2 g Carbs: 33 g Protein: 3 g

Monday, February 9, 2009

Quick "Baked" Apples

I made this as a single-serving dessert experiment, and I will definitely do it again. It had a good texture that I hadn't expected from the microwave. I used a bowl covered in plastic wrap, but I bet a steam bag would be worth trying, too. If you want to use more than one apple, increase the cooking time and stir apples half way through.

Quick "Baked" Apples
Total time: 5-10 minutes

1 medium apple
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1 Tbs packed brown sugar (more if you're using a granny smith)
whipped topping
graham cracker or granola

Slice the apple into 8-12 slices (like the kind you make for little kids) and sprinkle with cinnamon and brown sugar. Place in a microwave-safe dish and cover tightly with plastic wrap. Microwave for 60 seconds on high. Remove and top with broken graham cracker or granola and then whipped topping for a more crisp- like dessert.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Ice Cream Sandwiches

I heard about this and thought it was funny, but worth trying. It tastes SO much more like a real ice cream sandwich than I could have imagined! And it's so easy! I don't like to stop and think much about fat-free whipped topping is, because it is 100% fake; if you also have that problem, just eat it!

"Ice Cream" Sandwiches
Prep time: 2-5 minutes Freeze time: 10 min to days

For each sandwich:
1 graham cracker
2-4 tablespoons fat-free whipped topping, thawed or close to it.

Break graham cracker in half. Put whipped topping on it, and place second half of graham cracker lightly on top. Place in freezer until frozen enough for you. If you are making these more than an hour or two ahead, you should wrap them in plastic wrap once frozen to avoid freezer burn.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Low-fat ambrosia

I have been making a 5-cup salad recipe since I was old enough to "help" cook. It is often sold in grocery store delis as "ambrosia." The full cup of sour cream wasn't my friend, but low-fat or non-fat sour cream just taste weird to me. I finally tried vanilla yogurt, and it was great. The only caveat is that it should be eaten in 2-3 days, unlike the 4-5 days I remember from the sour cream. There are two sources of fat in this: the yogurt and the coconut. Switch to non-fat yogurt and replace the coconut with a cup of another fruit, and you can have it fat-free. Last time I made it, I added small chunks of apple, and that worked well too.

5 cup salad
Prep time: 10 min. Servings: 6-8

1 cup shredded coconut
1 (approx. 14 oz) can madarin oranges, drained
1 (approx. 14 oz) can pineapple chunks, drained
1 cup mini marshmallows
1 cup (or one 6 oz container) vanilla yogurt

Mix all ingredients in a bowl. Serve immediately, or chill and serve.

Nutrition info per 1/8 of recipe: Cal: 100 Fat: 4g Carbs: 15g Protein: 2.2g

Friday, February 6, 2009

Apple crisp

I love apple crisp - but not all the butter in the topping. Again, this one took me a little bit longer to make, but I think it's worth it. The prep and cook time are my actual in-the-kitchen-searching-my-cabinets times, so if you are more organized or a faster chopper, you may have better luck! I used the trick of replacing some butter with an egg white - like the graham cracker crust did - and this keeps the crust crispy while making it healthier.

Apple crisp
Prep time: 20 minutes Cook time: 25 minutes Serves 4-6

3 medium apples, thinly sliced
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1 1/2 teaspoons corn starch
1/2 cup regular oats
1/2 cup flour
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons butter, melted
1 egg white

Preheat oven to 375.
Toss sliced apples to coat in spices and corn starch.
In a medium bowl, combine oats, flour and brown sugar. In a small bowl, melt butter in the microwave and then stir in egg white (be really careful here that your butter isn't too hot or your egg white will just cook.) Add butter mixture to oat mixture. Mix - will form small clumps.
Pour apples into a pan (8x8 or 9x9) and top with oat mixture. Cook for 25 minutes, or until you think the apples are tender enough.

Thursday, February 5, 2009


I tried numerous times to make fudge from scratch. I either stirred too long or poured too slowly or cooked it not long enough. Finally I gave up and tried the easy way with sweetened condensed milk and chocolate chips, it tastes great, it's easy and I get it right every time.

3 cups (18 ounces) semi-sweet chocolate chips (or milk-chocolate chips)
1 (14-ounce) can Fat Free Sweetened Condensed Milk (NOT evaporated milk)
Dash salt
1/2 to 1 cup chopped nuts (optional)
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

In heavy saucepan, over low heat, melt chocolate chips with sweetened condensed milk and salt. Remove from heat; stir in nuts (optional) and vanilla. Spread evenly into wax paper lined 8- or 9-inch square pan. Chill 2 hours or until firm. Turn fudge onto cutting board, peel off paper and cut into squares. Store leftovers covered in refrigerator.

**Beki's note: I made this recipe for a party in France (using chocolate bars because chips are hard to find) and everybody loved it. I could not convince the other Americans there that it was easy - they just kept telling me that they knew good fudge is hard and quit trying to be modest!

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Better Graham Cracker Crust

Another thing that I like, but want a better version. Of course, if the filling is healthy enough then you can just buy one. There is another recipe, here, that I'd like to try, but I haven't yet so I can't vouch for it. The one I *have* tried is from Cooking Light and is copied straight from here. I love that it uses just 1 tablespoon of butter, when a regular recipe calls for 4-6 and means at least 33-55 grams of fat LESS that you usually get. Even divided 6 or 8 ways, that's a whole lot. I think that means you're ok to fill it with pudding, frozen yogurt or low-fat ice cream. (mmm, I love the Dreyer's double-churn half-fat stuff) Topped with fruit, of course!

Better Graham Cracker Crust

2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon chilled stick butter/margarine
1 egg white
1 1/4 cups graham cracker crumbs
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Cooking spray

Preheat oven to 325°.
Combine first 3 ingredients in a bowl; beat at medium speed of a mixer until blended. Add crumbs and cinnamon; toss with a fork until moistened.
Press crumb mixture into a 9-inch pie plate coated with cooking spray. Bake at 325° for 20 minutes or until lightly browned; let cool on a wire rack.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Apple Morning Muffins

I found this recipe here and I am pasting it below because I never have buttermilk, so I've added in substitution ingredients. The original recipe, found here uses 3/4 c yogurt instead of the buttermilk, so you could go that route as well. These are by far the best low-fat muffins I've made. Also, they are very easy to freeze, and taste great after being microwaved for 30-45 seconds to thaw. If you don't have the allspice, don't worry, I left it out, too.

Apple Morning Muffins
Prep time: 10 min Cook time: 20 min

2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup raw sugar (regular sugar will work fine)
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
3/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp allspice
1/8 tsp nutmeg
1 cup milk
1 3/4 tablespoons cream of tartar (or 1 tbs vinegar or lemon juice)
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
3/4 cup diced apple (1 large apple)

Preheat oven to 350F and line a 12-cup muffin tin with paper liners or spray with oil.
In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, allspice and nutmeg.
In a small bowl, whisk together the milk, cream of tartar, eggs and vanilla. Pour into dry ingredients and stir until just combined and no streaks of flour remain, adding in the apples at the last minute. Do not overmix.
Divide evenly into muffin tins and sprinkle with 1 tbsp additional sugar, if desired.
Bake at 350F for 16-20 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean and the muffin springs back when lightly pressed.
Cool on a wire rack. Muffins are best when just cooled.

Makes 12 muffins.
Nutrition info per muffin: Cal: 155 Fat: 1.5g Carbs: 32 Protein: 3.9g

Monday, February 2, 2009

Low-fat brownies from mix

First, I know that this one isn't as quick as some others, sorry! You may know this, but a lot of regular brownie boxes now have reduced-fat recipes printed in very small print on the box. The brand I just used actually has a "Low fat" box that tells you to make the recipe with the same directions as the "traditional" box's reduced-fat ones. And they end up with basically the same nutrition info. Funny, isn't it? Well, for my box I ended up with 3 grams of fat per serving instead of 9, and that made me much happier about sharing them with friends over the weekend. When you can get the box for around $1, this is definitely a good, cheap option.

In case you can't find the healthier directions, these are the changes on my box.
Lower-fat brownies
Pour mix into bowl.
Add 1 tablespoon less water than original recipe.
Add 1 egg (original asked for two.)
Add applesauce, mashed banana, or plain non-fat yogurt equal to the amount of oil called for.

Bake in a pan - may take a few minutes less than the traditional recipe.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Chai no-bake cookies

I've been making a typical no-bake cookie recipe since sometime in elementary school. I made it so often that I memorized the recipe. After the recipe card got lost, my family would just ask me for it. Not sure why they didn't just write it down again. However, with a *whole* lot of butter, it didn't seem so great anymore.

A couple of years ago, I set out to find a better version and am pleased to say that I did! The overall fat content actually isn't that much lower - the difference is now it is a healthier kind from the peanut butter. I wanted to make them more unique because no-bake cookies are so expected. I think that the chai spices set off the chocolate and peanut butter perfectly. The peanut butter dulls the flavor a lot, so that is why the amounts are so high.

Chai no-bake cookies
Makes 12 cookies Prep time: 10 min

3 tablespoons milk
1/3 cup sugar
1 tablespoon cocoa powder
1/3 cup crunchy peanut butter
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon cardamom
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup oatmeal

Heat milk, sugar, and cocoa powder over medium heat. Stir occasionally and let it come to a low boil. Let boil for one minute (Important! If it doesn't boil, these will stay soft and not set.) Add peanut butter and spices, mix in completely. Remove from heat, add vanilla, mix. Add oatmeal. Shape into balls and place on wax paper to cool or eat right away.

14 Healthier February Desserts!

So, my goal is to have 14 quick and (relatively) healthy dessert recipes for you! Can it be done without resorting to dipping fruit in caramel? Only time will tell. They will be to share with many, to take to work or school, and of course to have something special with just one other person. I admit that I don't have 14 good ones right now, so I'll have to take one for the team here and test out some new ones too.