Monthly Archives: September 2012

Chocolate and Peanut Butter Chip Pretzel Cookies

I’m obsessed with Pinterest.  I look at it for an hour each day during my lunch break (when I really should be walking around the city for exercise).  I use my phone to look at it every morning and every evening on the train to/from work.  I look at it at night (because I didn’t ruin my eyesight enough staring at the computer for 9 daylight hours already).  I look at it when I wake up at 4am because I can’t sleep (thanks to violent scenes from Sons of Anarchy and a preview of the horror movie Sinister).  And as if I don’t already have a stack of recipes that I still have yet to make, I just keep adding more recipes that I find on Pinterest.  These Chocolate & Peanut Butter Chip Pretzel Cookies are one of those glorious finds that had me at hello and call my name each and every time I see them.  Salty and sweet?  Umm…okay!

Milk chocolate chip and peanut butter chips are mixed into cookie dough with broken pieces of pretzels and baked to salty and sweet perfection.  These cookies were easy to make and could be made with any variety of chips.  I took the whole batch to the office (since I can’t trust myself to have cookies in the house) and they were a big hit.  A couple people in my department kept coming over for one more, and one more, and two more.  And the next day after the cookies were all gone, they still wanted more.  So I guess I’ll have to make them again.  Oh, darn.

The ingredients:

In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, and salt.  Set aside.

In a larger bowl, beat the butter and sugars together on medium speed until light and fluffy (about 2-3 minutes).

On low speed, slowly add the beaten egg and vanilla extract.  Beat to combine, scrape down the sides of the bowl.

Add the flour mixture and beat just until there are no more streaks of flour.

Stir in the chocolate chips, peanut butter chips, and preztels.  Cover and refrigerate for an hour.

Preheat the oven to 350ºF.  Line baking sheets with parchment paper.  Scoop out well rounded tablespoonfuls of the dough and sprinkle with sea salt (optional).  Bake for 10 minutes.   Allow the cookies to cool on the baking sheet for a few minutes before removing.

Additions:  None

Omissions:

  • Sea salt

Substitutions:  None

Overall Rating:  Love It

Source:  Sugar Cooking Blog

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Kung Pao Chicken

One of the biggest cravings I often get (which is nearly impossible to satisfy) is Chinese food.  Once I get the thought of Chinese food in my head, it becomes all I can think about.  The only thing I can do is pick up the phone and call my favorite Chinese food restaurant (which I have programmed into my phone, mind you), place an order, and stuff my face.  There is no getting around it.  And as much as I try to replicate my favorite dishes at home, it’s never as satisfying as the take-out I get.  Maybe it’s the additional oil or MSG that makes it so good (I don’t know and I don’t care) but I’m not ready to give up making healthier, just-as-tasty dishes at home.  This Kung Pao Chicken is probably the closest I have come to making a perfect Chinese dish.

Chicken is sautéed with garlic and onion in sesame oil (a flavor punch) before being bathed in a spicy mixture of water, soy sauce, cornstarch, brown sugar, ginger and red pepper flake.  Once the sauce has thickened slightly, fresh snow peas and red peppers are added until bright in color and perfectly crisp.  Unlike a typical restaurant dish, this version gets its kick from the red pepper flake instead of chili peppers but it doesn’t disappoint (if you like it spicier, add more flake or use chili peppers instead).  Snow peas are a fresh addition but other vegetables, such as broccoli, celery, cabbage or scallions, will work too.  Like the typical restaurant version, peanuts dot this dish adding a salty layer of crunch.  If you’re someone like me who gets that Chinese food craving and want something healthier, try this dish.  It comes together fast and it’s as tasty as ever.

The ingredients:

Heat sesame oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Add onion to pan; sauté 3 minutes or until softened.  Add garlic; sauté 30 seconds, stirring constantly.  Add chicken; sauté 3 minutes or until chicken begins to brown.

Combine water, soy sauce, cornstarch, brown sugar, ginger and crushed red pepper, stirring with a whisk until sugar dissolves.  Add water mixture to pan; bring to a boil.

Add bell pepper and snow peas to pan; cook for 2 minutes or until vegetables are crisp-tender and sauce thickens.

Sprinkle with nuts.

Additions:  None

Omissions:  None

Substitutions:

  • Ground ginger

Overall Rating:  Love It

Source:  Cooking Light Magazine

Poblano-Turkey Sausage Chili

The beautiful fall weather seemed to be a topic of conversation amongst everyone all weekend.  Blue skies and cooler temperatures seemed to put a pep in my step and I’m quickly becoming obsessed with fall weather, fall clothes and fall food.  I’ve already bought my second bag of apples that I’ve been eating everyday and I’m chomping at the bit to break out pumpkin recipes and scary movies.  Yesterday, with the windows wide open and football on the television, I was excited to make a bit pot of chili.  I typically make chili the first weekend of football season but it had been too warm so when I woke up yesterday to a chilly breeze, I knew it was time to make Poblano-Turkey Sausage Chili.

Turkey sausage is mixed with vibrant spices, diced tomatoes, poblano peppers and two different kinds of beans to make for a thick and spicy chili.  Using sausage instead of regular turkey gives this chili another layer of flavor and if you use hot sausage instead of sweet sausage (like I did), it creates even more intense, firey burst.  If you don’t like so much heat, you might want to stick to regular chili because the poblanos really do pack a punch but the older I get, the spicier the better.  Adding a touch of sour cream or plain yogurt helps to tame the heat a bit and a topping of cilantro gives a fresh element.  I’m obsessed with this chili.  I plan on eating it all week and might just make it again next weekend.

If you like this, also check out Jerk Chicken Chili.

The ingredients:

Add oil to a Dutch oven pan heated over medium-high heat; swirl to coat.  Add onion and garlic; sauté 4 minutes or until browned.

Remove casings from sausage; add sausage to pan.  Stir in chili powder, oregano, cumin, poblanos, and bay leaf; cook 4 minutes or until sausage is browned, stirring to crumble sausage.

Add 1 cup stock, tomatoes, and beans.  Bring to a boil; reduce heat, and simmer 25 minutes or until slightly thickened.

Combine flour and the remaining 2 tablespoons stock in a small bowl, stirring with a whisk to form a slurry.  Add slurry to chili, stirring with a whisk.  Bring to a boil; cook 1 minute or until thickened.

Remove from heat; stir in cilantro and black pepper.  Discard bay leaf.  Serve with sour cream or yogurt, if desired.

Additions:  None

Omissions:  None

Substitutions:

  • Hot sausage

Overall Rating:  Love It

Source:  Cooking Light Magazine

Pasta with Roasted Tomatoes and Garlic

Sometimes just a couple of little words will send my willpower into a nosedive. After yesterday’s post about how I’ve been eating a lot of chicken and veggies lately, I mentioned how I could eat a “big bowl of pasta” every day. After writing that one sentence, it suddenly became all I could think about. Pasta. Specifically stringy pasta that I could twirl around and around until the cluster of pasta looped around my fork would barely fit into my mouth. This is what I do from time to time and it’s my weakness. So I made this Pasta with Roasted Tomatoes and Garlic.

Cherry tomatoes and garlic are roasted in the oven until juicy and bursting with sweetness. They are then mixed with whole-wheat spaghetti and olive oil to create a simple, filling and flavorful pasta dish. A topping of parmesan cheese adds a cheesy, salty bite and fresh basil gives that bright freshness that mixes with pasta and tomatoes so perfectly. Any kind of pasta or tomatoes will work here so use whatever your favorite kind is but watch the olive oil – I used about half of what the recipe called for because it didn’t need so much. I’m not kidding when I tell you I twirled and twirled my fork with this spaghetti. I can’t help it, I couldn’t get it in my mouth fast enough. I heart it. Sometimes a big bowl of pasta hits the spot just the way a big fat hug does.

The ingredients:

Cook pasta according to package directions or until al dente. Drain pasta in a colander over a bowl, reserving 6 tablespoons cooking liquid. Return pasta to pan.

While pasta cooks, combine remaining 2 tablespoons oil, tomatoes, and garlic on a jelly-roll pan, tossing to combine. Bake at 450°F for 11 minutes or until tomatoes are lightly browned and begin to burst.

Combine reserved cooking liquid and 2 tablespoons oil in a small saucepan; bring to a boil. Boil 4 minutes or until mixture measures 1/3 cup. Add oil mixture to pan with pasta; toss to coat.

Add tomato mixture, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and pepper to pasta; toss to coat.

Top with cheese and basil.

Additions: None

Omissions: None

Substitutions:

  • Whole-wheat spaghetti
  • Shredded parmesan

Overall Rating: Love It

Source: Cooking Light Magazine

Baja Chicken Stir-Fry

I’ve been on a bit of a chicken and veggies kick.  It’s what I’ve been craving so why fight it?  It’s better than eating a big bowl of pasta or a buffalo chicken cheesesteak, both of which I could easily eat on a daily basis if it weren’t for my stubborn conscience.  I can’t seem to get enough chicken lately and the brighter the rainbow of veggies the better.   It’s not often that I go through phases like this so when they come around, I embrace them.  But no matter what my body wants, chicken and veggies can get boring unless they are switched up with different flavors.  I came across this Baja Chicken Stir-Fry (adapted from Baja Pork Stir-Fry) right when I wasn’t sure what to do next.  One look and I instantly fell in love with the vibrant colors in this dish.

Chicken breasts are cut into bite size pieces, seasoned with nothing more than salt and pepper, and cooked until brown.  Green, orange and red pepper slices are quickly stir-fried with minced jalapeño and then mixed with the cooked chicken.  A simple sauce of ground cumin, broth and cornstarch is added to the whole mixture and thickens up quickly, coating each piece of the stir-fry.  A final addition of cherry tomato halves and chopped cilantro rounds out this dish that comes together quickly.  The peppers are perfectly crisp, the tomatoes are juicy and the whole dish gets a kick from the jalapeño and a flavorful warmth from the ground cumin.  I wouldn’t normally think to add tomatoes to a stir-fry but it seems to work here.

The ingredients:

Combine broth, cornstarch, cumin and garlic.  Set aside.

Season chicken with salt and black pepper.  Add canola oil to a large skillet heated over medium-high heat.  Add chicken and cook thoroughly until brown on all sides.  Remove chicken from pan and keep warm.

Add remaining 1 tablespoon canola oil to pan and heat over high heat.  Add the bell peppers and jalapeño and stir-fry for 1 minute.

Return chicken to the pan and stir-fry for 1 minute.  Stir in broth mixture, the remaining salt and black pepper, and bring to a boil.

Remove from heat, and stir in tomatoes.

Sprinkle with cilantro.

Additions:  None

Omissions:

  • Red onion

Substitutions:

  • Chicken breasts

Overall Rating:  Like It

Source:  Cooking Light Magazine

Egg Salad Lettuce Wraps

I’m fortunate to work in a building that has a large “cafe” available to employees with a variety of lunch options such as a deli, two salad bars, a sushi bar, brick oven pizza and warm foods that change each day like fish tacos, chicken kabobs or grilled steak and potatoes.  Yet, for some reason, each time I go up there on days when I didn’t bring lunch, I end up walking around the whole place, eyeballing each item to find that nothing looks good and I ultimately end up getting the same thing every time:  egg salad on a spinach wrap.  I know this before I even ride the elevator up 15 floors to the cafe but I always hope each time that something else will strike my fancy.  And it never happens.  The wraps are huge and I’m full after just a half of one but I always end up eating the whole thing.  Oh, and instead of getting baby carrots and celery which are an optional free side, I typically succumb to the question “Do you want chips?”  The word yes comes out of my mouth before I even know what I’m saying and I rationalize it by figuring that I’m already eating so badly with the mayonnaise-laden egg salad that what’s the point of fooling myself with carrots.  I’m a hot mess.  So to keep myself away from the deli counter, I’m bringing in my own Egg Salad Lettuce Wraps for lunch this week.

Nonfat plain Greek yogurt replaces most of the mayonnaise in this recipe, keeping it lighter in calories without sacrificing too much flavor. Keeping a little light mayonnaise in keeps the Greek yogurt from making the egg salad too tangy.  I also added celery for crunch, roasted red pepper for an additional flavor boost and cayenne pepper for a little kick.  Putting the salad in lettuce really keeps the calories down and, depending on the kind of lettuce you use, provides and additional crunch factor, making this a satisfying lunchtime bite.  In additions, if you are watching your Weight Watchers points, one serving has 5 points so you can be on a diet and have egg salad too!  See ya’, deli counter…I won’t be back for a while!

Egg Salad Lettuce Wraps (makes 6 servings)

  • 12 eggs
  • 1/4 cup nonfat plain Greek yogurt
  • 3 tablespoons light mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1/3 cup jarred roasted red peppers in water, chopped or 1 red pepper, roasted (see note below)
  • 1/2 cup celery or one stalk, chopped
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)
  • 6 lettuce leaves, preferably butter lettuce
  • salt to taste

Place eggs in a large pot and cover with water.  Bring to a boil, cover, and let sit for 15 minutes.  Peel eggs and chop, placing them in a large bowl.  Add yogurt, mayonnaise and mustard; combine.  Add chopped celery and roasted red pepper; combine.  Stir in cayenne pepper and salt.  Rinse and dry lettuce leaves.  Serve 1 cup of salad in lettuce leaves.

Note: To make your own roasted red peppers, cut fresh red peppers in half, remove seeds and ribs, flatten, and broil, skin side up, for 10-15 minutes, until blackened, on a foil-lined baking sheet.  Place blackened peppers in a zip-top plastic bag, seal and let stand 15 minutes. Remove from bag, peel and discard skin; chop.

If you like this, also check out Enlightened Egg Salad Pitas.

The ingredients:

Place eggs in a large pot and cover with water.  Bring to a boil, cover, and let sit for 15 minutes.

Peel eggs and chop, placing them in a large bowl.  Add yogurt, mayonnaise and mustard; combine.  Add chopped celery and roasted red pepper; combine.  Stir in cayenne pepper and salt.

Rinse and dry lettuce leaves.  Serve 1 cup of salad in lettuce leaves.

Roasted Chipotle-Lime Sweet Potatoes

It’s surprising to me how sometimes I get cravings for food that I didn’t eat as a kid and still don’t eat often.  The other day I was sitting at work when the overwhelming craving for sweet potatoes came over me.  And not just sweet potatoes – roasted sweet potatoes.  It was such a specific and odd craving, far more deep than my normal cravings for chocolate or Chinese food.  Maybe it was my body’s way of telling me I need Vitamin C?  I came home that night and searched through my recipes but could only find recipes for mashed sweet potatoes, nothing roasted.  So, I decided to wing it.  The result were these perfectly sweet and spicy Roasted Chipotle-Lime Sweet Potatoes.

Fresh sweet potatoes are tossed with a little olive oil and chipotle chile pepper before being roasted in the oven until browned and soft.  A light sprinkle of salt and squeeze of fresh lime juice finish off these potatoes which could be eaten as a side to any dish or simply as a light meal in itself.  The combination of natural sweetness in the potatoes with the spicy chipotle makes for a perfect marriage of flavors and the addition of citrus at the end really brightens up the whole dish.  If you take a quick scan online for roasted sweet potatoes recipes, most include brown sugar or honey but I didn’t want any added sugar and preferred to keep this savory.  If you don’t like the spicy kick of chipotle chile pepper and prefer a more subtle flavor, cinnamon or smoked paprika would be good substitutions.

Roasted Chipotle-Lime Sweet Potatoes (makes 4 servings)

  • 2 sweet potatoes, scrubbed
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon chipotle chile pepper
  • 1/2 a lime
  • salt to taste

Preheat oven to 400°F.  Chop sweet potatoes into bite size pieces and place in a large bowl.  Add olive oil; toss to coat.  Sprinkle chipotle chile pepper over the potatoes; toss to coat.  Place potatoes on a baking sheet, spreading into a single layer.  Bake for 30-35 minutes, tossing once halfway through, until potatoes are soft and browned.  Squeeze lime juice over warm potatoes.  Sprinkle with salt, to taste.

The ingredients:

Chop sweet potatoes into bite size pieces and place in a large bowl.  Add olive oil; toss to coat.

Sprinkle chipotle chili pepper over the potatoes; toss to coat.  Place potatoes on a baking sheet, spreading into a single layer.  Bake for 30-35 minutes, tossing once halfway through, until potatoes are soft and browned.

Squeeze lime juice over warm potatoes.

Sprinkle with salt, to taste.

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