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I love Pad Thai

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Who doesn’t love Pad Thai? And more importantly, who doesn’t love the idea of making it at home, whenever you want? Even better, who wants to make it at home and make it healthy? Well that’s what I wanted, so I did it.

I found this recipe from SkinnyTaste (one of my favorite sites for healthy cooking). Her recipe is for Shrimp Pad Thai, but I decided to just make it vegetarian. Chicken is great too!

Low Fat Vegetable Pad Thai
Makes 4 servings

6 oz of packaged rice noodles
4 tsp olive oil
2 large eggs
1 cup broccoli florets
1 clove of garlic, crushed
1/2 cup canned mushrooms
1 red bell pepper, cut into strips
1 cup bamboo shoots
1/2 cup scallions, chopped
2 Tbsp crushed peanuts
1 lime
Cilantro for garnish

Seasonings:
2 1/2 Tbsp fish sauce
2 Tbsp rice vinegar
2 Tbsp sugar
4 Tbsp water
1 tsp chili powder

Follow the package instructions to cook the dry rice noodles. The rice noodles should be soft (but still chewy and not mushy) after boiling. Rinse the boiled noodles with cold running water.

Mix all the seasoning ingredients in a small bowl until well combined, set aside.

Heat up a large skillet on high heat and add the oil. As soon as the oil is hot, add the garlic to the skillet and start stirring until you smell the aroma of the garlic. Add the broccoli, red pepper, and mushrooms and saute.

Use the spatula to push the noodles to one side of the skillet, and crack the eggs on the empty side of the skillet. Use the spatula to break the egg yolk and let cook for about 30 seconds. Combine the egg and the noodles, and add the seasoning sauce. Stir to combine well with the noodles.

Next, add the bean sprouts and scallions and continue stirring. As soon as the bean sprouts are cooked, stir-in the crushed peanut. Turn off the heat and serve the Pad Thai immediately with the lime wedges and top with cilantro.

Sugared cranberries for a crowd

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We’re well past Christmas and there’s been hardly any snow in Chicago this winter, but it’s still not too late to post this delicious recipe for sugared cranberries. When I first saw the recipe for this, I was suspicious that they would taste too sour, but if you let it sit in sugar-water overnight, the tartness is reduced and you end up with a soft cranberry with a sparkling hard coating that just pops in your mouth like candy. Delicious and beautiful!

We made a bunch of these, along with chocolate-covered-figs, and packaged them in tins from the dollar store and gave them as Christmas gifts to our families. It was much easier to gift a whole family with some healthier Christmas treats than figuring out what to give each person. We also wrote a little poem and designed, printed, cut, and pasted it into the inside of each tin.

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But, the sugared cranberries can be used in a variety of ways. Below is an image of a delicious appetizer that is simple to make. It’s simply water crackers (of your choice, I used whole wheat), soft goat cheese, cranberry sauce, and topped with a few sugared cranberries and a mint leaf.

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And finally, Mistletoe and Holly Mojitos! There’s no mistletoe or holly in these mojitos, but they definitely look Christmassy!
It’s super easy too:

White rum
Lime juice
Mint
Club soda (or we sometimes use diet Sprite for zero calories)
Simple syrup (omit this if you’re using diet Sprite)
Sugared cranberries
Crush the mint, lime juice, and white rum together. Add the carbonated drink and simple syrup and mix to taste. Add more lime if needed and top with a few sugared cranberries. Enjoy!

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Healthy Baked Ziti with Spinach

It’s been awhile since my Thanksgiving post but I haven’t stopped cooking. In fact, there’s been so much cooking. And weight loss! Yes, I’m almost at my goal weight, and the closer I get the more lazy I have been getting. I think I need to find the motivatation to lose that final 1-2 pounds. Fortunately, what of the many things I love about cooking healthy is finding great recipes that are delicious, satisfying, but don’t leave me with that regretful why did I eat that? feeling. I’ve also had fun trying out some of these recipes on friends, and fortunately they’ve enjoyed them too.

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Here’s one I got from adapted from SkinnyTaste.com. I used my favorite spaghetti sauce from Trader Joe’s but you can use whatever sauce you like. If you’re counting points be sure to track it in the recipe builder.

Baked Ziti with Spinach
12 servings; 6+ per serving

1 cup fat-free ricotta cheese
1 cup frozen spinach
1 bag Trader Joe’s whole wheat penne pasta
1 1/2 cups shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese
4 1/4 cup Trader Joe’s Roasted Garlic Marinara sauce
1/3 cup grated fresh parmesan cheese
3 sprays olive oil cooking spray
1 tsp salt

Preheat oven to 375. Spray a 9×13-inch baking pan with the oil spray. In a large pot of salted water, cook pasta according to instructions until al dente. Drain and return to pot. Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan, heat the marinara sauce, add spinach, salt, and season to taste. Add sauce to the pasta and mix. Stir in the ricotta, parmesan, and half of the mozzarella. Mix well then transfer to the baking pan and spread evenly. Top with the remaining mozzarella. Bake for 30 minutes, or until mozzarella is melted and the edges are lightly browned. Let it cool 5 minutes, then serve it into 12 equal portions.

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Bacon wrapped dates…for Thanksgiving?

Yes. A special request from Danger’s great aunt Helen. And great aunts must not be disappointed on Thanksgiving! I also made a Cranberry Pear sauce from SkinnyTaste so I could be sure to have a few lightened up options at the Thanksgiving table (or buffet, in our case). I’ll share that one next!

The process is relatively simple, especially if you have pitted dates, which we did not. So I sliced open each date and pulled out the pit. Then we filled each one with a bit of goat cheese. The best way of doing this is to put softened goat cheese in a ziploc bag and cut a hole at the point to use it like a piping bag. Squeeze a little (or as much as you like) into each date.

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We used regular bacon for this recipe but I’m sure it would be good with turkey bacon, maple bacon, smoked applewood bacon, or whatever your favorite version is. Just be sure to cut the bacon in half because you won’t need a whole strip for each date. Wrap the half slice of bacon around the cheese-filled date and secure with a toothpick.

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Place each date on a baking sheet, either lined with parchment paper or a baking mat (mine is SilPat, a silicone mat). This will prevent the dates from sticking to the bottom of the baking sheet when it bakes. Drizzle with a little maple syrup (I used a reduced calorie syrup) and sprinkle with brown sugar. This will give it the sweet glaze that makes them so delicious.

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Bake at 350 for about 30 minutes, or until crispy brown. Remove from oven and let cool before trying one!

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Bacon Wrapped Dates with Goat Cheese
makes 40 wrapped dates, 1 dates per serving. Points Plus: 2+ per serving.

40 pitted dates
20 slices of bacon (any type), cut in half
5 oz soft goat cheese
4 tbsp reduced calorie maple syrup
4 tbsp brown sugar

Preheat oven to 350. Soften goat cheese and place in ziploc bag for easy piping into each date. After piping, roll each date with a half of the bacon and secure with toothpick. Place the wrapped date onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat (not aluminum foil) so they don’t stick to the pan while cooking. Drizzle with the maple syrup and sprinkle with brown sugar. Bake for about 30 min, or until brown and crisp. Watch carefully that they don’t burn. Remove from oven carefully and serve warm or cold.

Curried lentils and sweet potato stew

I finally used the lentils!

A few weeks ago, my coworker told me about this amazing Curried Lentils and Sweet Potato stew from SmittenKitchen, and that I just had to try it. She brought in some for me the next day and WOW. Amazingly good. And green, yes, the color green. I think this was because she added a bunch of spinach, but I could be wrong. Later that week, as I was sitting at home not sure what to do with a few sweet potatoes, I suddenly realized I had almost every ingredient needed for this lentil stew, except garam masala. But Danger (the hubby’s nickname) would be on his way home and maybe he could stop and get it for me!

I definitely had lentils on hand. They have been waiting a long time to be used, and this was the perfect recipe.

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The recipe was simple. Vegetable broth, chopped sweet potatoes, onions, garlic, chard (which I did not have but I added corn), and lentils and seasoning. I hadn’t cooked lentils in awhile, so next time I’ll probably cook the lentils for at least 25 minutes before adding everything else because my lentils needed so long to cook to get soft.

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But it turned out delicious. And topped with a little lime and cilantro was the perfect touch.

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Our home smelled like sweet Indian curry for a couple days, but it was such a comforting aroma.

Here’s my slightly lightened up version from SmittenKitchen:

Yields about 6 cups. Points Plus: 5+ per cup of stew.

2 tsp extra virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp ground ginger
1 1/2 tsp garam masala
1 1/2 tsp curry powder
4 cups vegetable broth as needed
2 chopped sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 cup dried lentils
1 bay leaf
1 cup sweet corn
1 cup frozen spinach
1 tsp salt, more to taste
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro
Juice of 1/2 lime

1. In large saucepan, heat oil over medium heat. Add onion and saute until translucent, 5 to 7 minutes. Add garlic, ginger, garam masala, and curry powder. Cook, stirring, for 1 minute.

2. Stir in 4 cups broth and lentils. Increase heat to high and bring to a boil; reduce heat to medium, partially cover, and simmer for 25 minutes. (If lentils seem dry, add up to 1 cup stock, as needed.) Add sweet potatoes, bay leaf, corn, spinach, salt and pepper, and continue cooking until lentils are tender and sweet potatoes are soft. About another 15 min or until cooked. You’ll notice the stew becoming think. When lentils are done, remove from stove.

3.  Spoon into a large, shallow serving dish. Top with cilantro and a squeeze of lime juice.

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Mini Omelette Muffins

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Saturday morning I woke up early and couldn’t get back to sleep. So I grabbed my laptop, headed into the kitchen, and made some coffee. Around 10:30, I decided we needed to eat something soon. We had plans to go out in the evening with Jeff’s family, so I wanted to make something light to hold us over for awhile.

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I found a great recipe for mini egg omelettes on SkinnyTaste.com, but I wasn’t in the mood for broccoli. Instead, I adapted the recipe two ways: Mexican Mini Egg Omelettes and Tomato Basil Egg Omelettes. Both were extremely easy to make, especially because I had a few of the ingredients already. While they were baking, I woke Jeff up so he could join me in the kitchen to enjoy them.

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Adapted from SkinnyTaste.com
Mexican Mini Egg Omelettes (Points+ = 2 pts per omlette)
5 large eggs
2 Tbsp chopped red onion
2 Tbsp chopped cilantro
3 Tbsp shredded reduced-fat Mexican-style cheese
1/2 cup chopped tomato
1 pinch of table salt and pepper
lime juice from 1/2 of lime

Preheat oven to 350. Crack the eggs into a mixing bowl and add the salt, pepper, and lime juice. Mix well. Lightly spray the muffin tin with the olive oil. Add the other ingredients into 6 of the muffin tins. Top with the eggs, filling about 3/4 of the way full.

If you plan to make both kinds at once like I did, just spray the other 6 spots in the muffin tin with olive oil and start mixing up the Tomato Basil version:

Tomato Basil Mini Egg Omelettes (Points+ = 2 pts per omlette)
5 eggs
1/2 cup chopped tomato
3 Tbsp chopped basil
1/2 cup Feta cheese, crumbled, fat-free
1 pinch of table salt and pepper
1 pinch italian seasoning

Follow the same instructions: mix eggs together with salt, pepper, and italian seasoning. Put the chopped veggies and cheese into the muffin tin, top with egg mixture 3/4 way full. Pop the whole muffin tin into the oven for 20 minutes.

These should refrigerate well for 3-4 days.