Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Blue Plate Meat Loaf with Mushroom Gravy

I like to try out new recipes for meatloaf, so I was intrigued by the "Blue Plate Meat Loaf with Mushroom Gravy" in WW's Best Darn Food Ever cookbook.

Serves 6 (7 PP per serving)
2 tsp olive oil
3/4 lb sliced mushrooms (I prefer plain old white mushrooms)
1 large onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 lbs lean ground beef
1/2 cup plain dried whole wheat bread crumbs
1/4 cup ketchup
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 tbs Dijon mustard
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/4 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth
2 tsp all purpose flour
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray jelly-roll pan with nonstick spray.

Heat oil in medium nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add mushrooms, onion, and garlic; cook, stirring occasionally, until mushrooms release their liquid and is evaporated, about 10 minutes. Remove skillet from heat and let cool slightly.

Transfer half of mushroom mixture to large bowl. Add beef, bread crumbs, ketchup, egg, mustard, and salt to bowl; stir until blended but not overmixed.**

Transfer meat loaf mixture to prepared baking pan and shape into a 4 X 8 inch loaf. Bake until instant-read thermometer inserted in center of loaf registers 160 degrees for well done, about 1 hour, 10 minutes. Let stand 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, whisk together broth, flour, and Worcestershire sauce in cup until smooth. Add to remaining mushroom mixture in skillet. Bring to boil. Reduce heat and simmer, stirring, until sauce bubbles and thickens, about 3 minutes. Cut meat into 12 slices and serve with sauce (2 slices meat loaf and 1/4 cup sauce per serving).

**I would pack the meat more next time since the meatloaf did not hold together well when sliced
The meatloaf and gravy had excellent flavor, though as noted it was crumbly and slices didn't hold their shape well. We enjoyed leftovers without the gravy on toasted rolls with a slice of cheese. I will definitely make this again. I am not a big fan of gravies and sauces, but this one was delicious over a half cup of mashed potatoes.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Friday, May 25, 2012

Cauliflower and Artichoke Gratin

I used to think "brown" or "beige" food didn't belong on my blog, but I've since realized that while it may not be photogenic, if it tastes wonderful, it belongs. This side dish was simple to put together and with a little tweaking (like adding some ooey, gooey cheese) could have served as a main course.

Serves 6 (2 PP per serving)
2 tsp olive oil
1 large onion, thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1/4 tsp salt
2 tsp plain dried bread crumbs
2 tbs chopped fresh parsley
1 tsp chopped fresh thyme
2 cups cauliflower florets
2 (9oz) pkgs frozen artichoke hearts, thawed
2 tbs grated parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Spray 7 X 11 inch baking dish with nonstick spray. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onion,, garlic, and salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until onion is tender, about 8 minutes. Stir in bread crumbs, parsley, and thyme. Meanwhile, bring medium saucepan of water to boil. Add cauliflower and cook until just tender, about 5 minutes. Drain. Place artichokes and cauliflower in prepared baking dish. Top with onion mixture; sprinkle with parmesan cheese. Bake until hot and topping is lightly browned, about 30 minutes.
I really loved the combination of cauliflower and artichokes and the onion and bread crumb topping created both a wonderful texture as well as a sweet note. I ate the leftovers just warmed through (instead of hot) and liked it even more. Next time, I am going to try adding some shredded fontina and running it under the broiler to brown.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Mac n' Cheese

Who says you can't eat mac n' cheese and lose weight? This version adapted from WW Best Darn Food Ever! yielded four good-sized portions, each the centerpiece of a delicious meal.

8 oz elbow macaroni (I just can't abide whole wheat, but love Dreamfields)
1 tbs unsalted butter
1 small onion, chopped
1 tbs flour
1 1/2 cups fat free milk
1 cup shredded reduced fat Cheddar cheese (I prefer Cabot's)
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp mustard powder
1/4 tsp pepper
1/4 cup panko bread crumbs

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and spray a 9 inch square baking dish with nonstick spray**

Cook macaroni according to package directions and drain

Melt butter in same pot you cooked macaroni in; add onion and cook, stirring, until softened, about 5 minutes; add flour and cook, stirring constantly, 1 minute more. Gradually whisk in milk until smooth. Cook, stirring constantly, until sauce bubbles and thickens, about 4 minutes. Stir in cheese, salt, mustard powder, and pepper. Cook, stirring, until cheese is melted, about 1 minute.

Remove pot from heat and stir in macaroni. Spoon into prepared dish(es). Sprinkle bread crumbs evenly over macaroni mixture and coat with nonstick spray. Bake until casserole is bubbly and top is golden brown, 30 minutes for the 9-inch casserole or 20 minutes for the four individual dishes.

**you can bake the mac n' cheese in four (4) small, individual dishes
I am going to be completely honest and say that this mac n' cheese, while delicious and satisfying, is much drier than my regular version. Of course, my butt will stay in the same zip code if I eat this version instead of my usual Martha Stewart version. That said, we enjoyed it immensely and I still lost weight on weigh in day--how can you beat that?

Friday, May 18, 2012

Oven-fried Chicken

Who doesn't love the crunch of southern fried chicken, but there's the fat in the skin and the fat that it's fried in just waiting to creep around your middle. Don't worry, you can have your crispy chicken and lose weight/stay healthy by using your oven to produce delicious, moist chicken with a satisfying crunch. The original recipe called for bone-in, skinless chicken breasts, but I substituted bone-in, skinless chicken thighs. I much prefer bone-in chicken as it retains the juices far better.

Serves 4 (7 PP)
3/4 cup low-fat buttermilk (I make my own by adding 1 tbs vinegar to skim milk and letting it stand)
1 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp salt
4 bone-in, skinless chicken thighs (about 5 oz each)
1 cup panko bread crumbs
2 tbs grated parmesan cheese
1 tsp dried rosemary
1 tsp dried sage

Combine buttermilk, salt, and pepper in large zip-lock bag and add chicken. Squeeze air out of the bag and seal. Turn to coat chicken and refrigerate 20 minutes to 3 hours, turning occasionally.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line baking sheet with foil sprayed with nonstick spray.

Mix together bread crumbs and cheese. Remove chicken from buttermilk mixture and discard mixture. Coat chicken, one piece at a time, in panko mix. Place chicken pieces on prepared baking sheet and bake 30 minutes. Remove from oven and lightly spray chicken with nonstick spray. Return to oven and bake until cooked through, about 15 minutes longer.
The recipe above is adapted from WW Best Darn Food Ever cookbook. The first time I used the exact recipe, but we didn't enjoy the spice mixture. The second time, I revised it and it turned out perfect: moist inside, crispy outside, and very flavorful. Leftovers--if there are any--are delicious cold or at room temperature. With corn and potato salad, this is a picnic. With mashed potatoes and greens, it's a southern-style meal that will have you singing Dixie.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Creamy Tomato Basil Soup

I love tomato basil soup and have made a few versions, all of which I've enjoyed. The difference with this version is that it is creamy and I used only fresh tomatoes. With some cheese quesadillas, it made a great light dinner.

Serves 4 (4 PP per serving; 161 cal; 5 g fat; 19 g carb; 4 g fiber; 9 g prot)
Adapted from Points Plus cookbook
2 tsp olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
4 large ripe tomatoes, peeled and chopped*
1 cup reduced sodium vegetable broth (or chicken broth, which I prefer)
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 tsp salt
1/8 tsp ground black pepper
3 cups 1% milk (I prefer fat free)
1/4 cup tomato paste
2 tbs thinly sliced fresh basil

*It is so easy to peel fresh tomatoes. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Gently drop the tomatoes in and leave for 2 minutes. Take out and plunge into cold water. The skin will slip off easily.

Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium high heat. Add onion and cook, stirring occasionally until softened, 5 minutes.

Stir in tomatoes, broth, garlic, salt, and pepper: bring to boiling. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, until vegetables are tender, about 10 minutes. Let mixture cool 5 minutes.

Puree in batches (or use immersion blender). Return to saucepan. Whisk together milk and tomato paste in medium bowl; add to soup. Stir in basil. Cook over medium heat just until heated through, about 3 minutes (do not boil).
This was my favorite tomato basil soup so far and I'm sure it's because there were no tomato skins in it. A serving is a generous 1 1/4 cups and leftovers heat up easily--just remember not to let the soup come to a boil or the milk will curdle. You'll never want canned tomato soup again!

Friday, May 11, 2012

Snickerdoodle Bread

It just isn't Christmas without snickerdoodles, those wonderfully fragrant cinnamon-laced cookies that I grew up with. So when I saw a recipe for Snickerdoodle loaves over at Cathy's Wives with Knives, I knew what I was baking for my next quilt guild meeting. Be sure to check out this wonderful blog which always has something delicious to try.

Snickerdoodle Bread

Author: Barbara Bakes
  • 2-1/2 cup all purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla (I used the seeds from 1 vanilla bean instead)
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1-1/2 cups cinnamon chips
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 tablespoons cinnamon
  1. Combine 2-1/2 cups flour and baking powder in a bowl. In a separate bowl, cream butter and 2 cups sugar, salt and cinnamon until fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add eggs one at a time mixing well after each addition. Add vanilla and sour cream and mix to combined. Add flour mixture, stirring until just combines. Coast the cinnamon chips with2 tablespoons flour and stir into the batter.
  2. Spoon batter into 4 or 5 floured and greased mini loaf pans (5-3/4 x 3-1/4 x 2-1/4 inches) or 2 9 x 5 inch loaf pans. Don’t fill more than 2/3 full. Combine 2 tablespoons sugar and 2 teaspoons cinnamon and sprinkle over the top of batter in the pans. Bake at 350 degrees for 35 to 40 minutes until a toothpick inserted into a crack in the center of the loaf pan comes out clean. Remove from the oven and let cool 5 minutes before removing from the pan.
I could tell while the loaves were still in the oven that this was going to be a very special treat. The fragrance of cinnamon and sugar perfumed the whole house. One bite of this wonderful "bread" and I was hooked. Tasting more like a rich coffeecake, I knew from the first bite that this was a keeper. I'll definitely be making this one again.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

New Blogger Dashboard/Interface

Am I the only one who hates the new Blogger interface? I used to love going onto the dashboard to catch up on all my favorite blogs. Creating or editing posts was a snap. Since I was forced to switch over to this new interface, I find myself spending far less time on Blogger. Am I a relic? Is it my imagination that the old interface was so much more user friendly? 

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Cheese-stuffed Turkey Meatballs with Pasta

It's hard to believe that I wasn't a big fan of  "macaroni" when I was growing up. What I wouldn't give to be able to eat pasta more frequently now! Lately I've been making it on Sundays, looking for new and more healthy ways to prepare it. Since Larry is a big spaghetti and meatball fan, I decided to try this take on the classic Italian-American favorite. We were both glad that I did.

(Adapted from Points Plus cookbook)
Serves 4
8 oz ground turkey
1/2 c grated cheese, divided (I prefer Pecorino Romano)
1/4 c bread crumbs
1/4 c chopped fresh parsley
1/4 c fat free milk
1 large egg white
1 garlic clove, minced
pinch cayenne
1 (1 oz) piece part skim mozzarella cut into 16 pieces (I know, right? I used a piece of string cheese)
2 cups fat free marinara sauce (I prefer the Barilla fire roasted sauce)
1/2 cup water
8 oz spaghetti
2 c thinly sliced escarole

Stir together turkey, 1/4 c cheese, bread crumbs, parsley, milk, egg white, garlic, and cayenne in a large bowl. Shape turkey mixture around cheese cube to form 16 meatballs.

Bring marinara sauce and water to a simmer in a large skillet. Add meatballs, cover, and simmer, stirring gently a few times, until meatballs are cooked through, 10-15 minutes.

Meanwhile cook pasta according to package directions, adding escarole during the last 1 minute of cooking. Drain.

Divide pasta mixture among 4 bowls; top evenly with meatballs and sauce; sprinkle evenly with remaining cheese.
(N.I.: 415 cal; 6 g fat; 61 g carb; 11 g fiber; 30 g prot; 10 points plus)
When I first noted that the escarole was added to the pasta, I was skeptical. I adore 'scarole, but generally eat it sauteed with garlic and olive oil. I decided to give it a try and was pleasantly surprised that I loved the escarole with the marinara sauce. For such a simple recipe, this was very flavorful. In fact, I intend to make the meatballs again to use in sandwiches. They are very soft, but hold their shape well. Another filling, healthy dinner that you can feel good about serving.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Asiago, Bacon, and Potato Gratin

This recipe has been all over Pinterest and with good reason. It's so easy and it is cheesy and delicious. The bacon may seem like overkill to those who don't worship at that shrine (I can't envision a food that can't be made better with bacon). I did find, however, that the cooking time was way off and I believe the dish can be made simpler still by using a mandolin to slice the potatoes very thinly and omitting the parboiling, which I intend to do next time. Therefore, I'm editing the instructions to reflect this. Otherwise, you want to try this dish very soon.

The original recipe was printed in Cooking Light in 2004.

  • 1 1/2 pounds peeled Yukon gold potatoes, cut into very thin slices (1/16 inch)
  • 1 teaspoon salt, divided 
  • Cooking spray 
  • 2 tablespoons minced shallots
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups 1% low-fat milk, divided 
  • 3/4 cup (3 ounces) grated Asiago cheese 
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh chives
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper 
  • bacon slices, cooked and crumbled 
  • 1/4 cup (1 ounce) grated fresh Parmesan cheese 

  1. Preheat oven to 350°.
  2. Use a mandolin to slice the potatoes paper thin; sprinkle generously with salt.
  3. Heat a medium saucepan coated with cooking spray over medium heat. Add shallots; cook 2 minutes or until tender, stirring frequently. Lightly spoon flour into a dry measuring cup; level with a knife. Sprinkle flour over shallots. Gradually add 1/2 cup milk, stirring with a whisk until well blended. Gradually add remaining 1 1/2 cups milk, stirring with a whisk. Cook over medium heat 9 minutes or until thick, stirring frequently. Remove from heat; stir in 3/4 teaspoon salt, Asiago, chives, pepper, and bacon.
  4. Arrange half of potato slices in an 8-inch square baking dish coated with cooking spray. Pour half of cheese sauce over potato slices. Top with remaining potato slices and cheese sauce; sprinkle with Parmesan. Bake at 350° for 35 minutes or until cheese is bubbly and lightly browned.

I liked this take on potatoes au gratin. They were lacking none of the creaminess and cheesiness, but they weren't over-the-top in terms of calories and fat. This is definitely a keeper recipe when you want something special to go with a ham or a roast.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Texas Cheese Fries

I confess that when I first heard about these cheese fries, all I could picture was a nasty plate of fried potatoes covered in Velveta-like orange cheese. I have never been a fan of cheese or gravy on my fries. The fact that I eat very few fries in the first place made me just dismiss this recipe. Then I read a few "reviews" on the Weight Watcher message boards and decided to check out the recipe. I do make oven-baked sweet potato fries or Italian-seasoned fries on occasion, so I decided to give these a try.

Texas Cheese Fries 
from Skinnytaste.com 
2 • Serving Size: 1/2 • Old Points: 6 pt • Points+: 7 pt
259 • Fat: 12.3 g • Protein: 10.1 g • Carb: 29 g • Fiber: 2.9 g • Sugar: 1.4 g
590.5 mg (without salt) 


  • 2 medium potatoes (2/3 lb total), yukon gold or russet, washed and dried (skin on)
  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1/4 tsp chili powder
  • 1/4 tsp onion powder
  • 1/4 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/8 tsp cumin
  • coarse salt and fresh cracked pepper
  • 1 slice center cut bacon, cooked & finely chopped
  • 1/3 cup sharp shredded cheddar cheese (I used reduced fat Mexican blend)
  • 2 tbsp diced scallions
  • 1 tbsp sliced pickled Jalapeno (I omitted these)


Preheat the oven to 400°. Line baking sheet with foil for easy clean-up. Lightly coat with cooking spray.

Cut each potato lengthwise into 1/4 inch thin slices; then cut each slice into 1/4 inch fries.
In a large bowl, combine cut potatoes and oil; toss well. Add seasoning (paprika to salt and pepper). Toss to coat. Spread in a single layer on baking sheet. Bake 15 minutes, turn over, and bake another 15-25 minutes. Remove from oven, place fries into two small oven safe dishes (or one large dish for sharing), top with cheese, scallions and bacon bits and return to oven for  about 2 minutes, or until the cheese melts.
While I normally don't "spend" 7 points on a side dish, by carefully planning what I eat with them, I am able to minimize the damage somewhat (e.g. a turkey burger without the bun, steamed seafood). These "fries" are very tasty and the portion size will leave you feeling satisfied, but not stuffed. There is not a lot of cheese on these, so maybe next time I will use regular cheese (since that's what the points are calculated on).I've already made these twice, so I am really recommending them.  In the future, I would serve these as an appetizer at a BBQ, the taste is that good. So go ahead and indulge!