Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Cranberry-Pear Sauce

Pass Up: Canned Cranberry SaucePer 1/3-cup serving: 225 cal, <1 g fat (0 g sat), 57 g carbs, 2 mg sodium, 4 g fiber, <1 g protein 

Pass the Cranberry-Pear Sauce
Cranberries are weight-loss superstars. Studies have found that they contain organic acids that may help dissolve fat deposits, plus enzymes that may boost metabolism. Too bad we tend to dump sugar over them to temper their tartness. The pears in this dish add sweetness, which means you can use half the sugar found in most canned sauces.

1/2 cup sugar
12 oz fresh cranberries
3 Bosc pears, peeled, cored, and chopped 
1/4 inch piece of ginger - grated
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/8 tsp ground cloves

1. In a large saucepan, bring 1 cup water, sugar, ginger and 1/4 teaspoon salt to a boil. Stir well.

2. Add cranberries, pears, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves; stir well to combine. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 25 to 30 minutes, until cranberries burst.

3. Remove from heat. Serve at room temperature or chilled.

Makes 8 servings
Per 1/3-cup serving: 112 cal, 0 g fat (0 g sat), 29 g carbs, 62 mg sodium, 4 g fiber, 0 g protein

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Cardamom Almond Cookies

For the past few days I've watched my friends post about baking pies and cookies in preparation for Thanksgiving.  My friend H baked and shared some wonderful chocolate chip cookies and oatmeal cookies.  Frankly, that was the first time anyone has baked cookies for me in a while.

So now I'm craving cookies.  Admittedly, nothing says holidays to me like cardamom.  Something about that smell and flavor takes me back to my childhood.  Cookies like Maamoul or Iraqi Kleicha are the cookie of choice during the big holidays.  Now if you are not familiar with these cookies then you are missing out.  Some have compared the flavor of maamoul to shortbread. It is made by pressing a buttery dough into a wooden mold, which is typically decorated with an elaborate carving. This carving makes a beautiful impression on the cookie, and also identifies the filling. Like other Middle Eastern sweets, it features walnut, pistachio or date filling, which is placed into the mold and enveloped by the dough.   Orange or rose water gives this cookie’s filling its extraordinary, delicate flavor. The cookies are removed from the molds for baking showing the beautiful impressions left by the mold.

Since this is the busy time of the year for most chefs and caterers I really didn't have a couple of hours to dedicate to these cookies.  I just wanted the familiar flavors but in a simpler cookie.  If you know me, you know I don't bake.  While I appreciate the art of baking, measuring cups and spoons are foreign objects to me in the kitchen.  When I cook, I taste and adjust the flavors as I go, but there is no fixing a dough once it's formed.  I took a leap and decided to use a tried and true cookie recipe, but alter a few ingredients to achieve those wonderful Middle Eastern flavors.

Cardamom Sugar Cookies


1 cup butter, softened
3/4 cups sugar
1 egg, lightly beaten
1/4 cup shredded coconut
1 heaping tablespoon cardamom powder
1/4 tsp. rose or orange blossom water** (optional)
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flower
pinch of salt
toasted slivered almonds


Cream together eggs, sugar, rose water and butter in a medium mixing bowl.   Sift together the flour, salt and cardamom. Add the coconut into the flour mixture and stir; (this will allow the coconut to suspend in the cookie and not sink to the bottom).   Slowly incorporate the flour mixture into the butter mixture. Mix until throughly combined.  Shape the mixture into a log, wrap in plastic wrap, and chill in the refrigerator for 30-60 minutes.

Preheat oven to 375.

Unwrap the log and cut it into 1/4 inch slices with a sharp serrated knife.  Put them on the prepared cookie sheets spaced an inch apart.  Sprinkle a few slivered almonds on each cookie. Press them in so they bake into the cookie.

Bake for 7-12 minutes, until golden brown.  Transfer the cookies to wire racks to cool completely.  

**I know many of you are not fans of rose/orange water, but you should really give it a try with these cookies.  You are just using a 1/4 teaspoon in this recipe so it will not over whelm the flavor.  It adds a floral note to the cookie that makes it authentically Middle Eastern.  If your still hesitant then you can substitute with vanilla extract.

I was thrilled with these cookies as my baking experience is limited.  The flavor and texture were absolutely amazing.  And my house was filled with those warm notes of cardamom.

I hope this has inspired you to try one new recipe this holiday season.  Have a safe and Happy Thanksgiving.

Chili-Spiced Mashed Sweet Potatoes

Pass Up: Candied Sweet Potatoes
Per 1/2-cup serving: 315 cal, 7 g fat (3 g sat), 61 g carbs, 153 mg sodium, 5 g fiber, 2 g protein

Pass the Chili-Spiced Mashed Sweet Potatoes
Not only is this dish practically fat-free, but the chili powder contains capsaicin, which studies have shown may inhibit fat-cell growth and help people consume fewer calories. And cinnamon is no slacker spice either: It keeps your blood sugar stable and your appetite in check, so you won't be tempted to go back for a second helping.

4 large sweet potatoes (3 1/2 lbs total)
1/2 cup fresh orange juice
2 tsp orange zest
2 Tbsp brown sugar
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp chili powder

1. Bake the sweet potatoes in a 425°F oven until they are soft, about 70 minutes. Remove sweet potatoes from oven and allow them to cool slightly.

2. In a small bowl, whisk together orange juice, orange zest, brown sugar, 1/4 teaspoon salt, cinnamon, and chili powder.

3/. Scoop out the insides of sweet potatoes and place in a large mixing bowl. Pour orange juice mixture over sweet potatoes, mash well, and serve.

Makes 8 servings
Per 1/2-cup serving: 191 cal, <1 g fat (0 g sat), 45 g carbs, 169 mg sodium, 6 g fiber, 3 g protein 

Monday, November 22, 2010

Lighten up that Thanksgiving Feast

Delicious Low-Fat Thanksgiving Side Dish Recipes!!  (New Recipe every day)

Trim calories from your feast by using these swaps for your favorite sides.  Here are some quick suggestions:

Pass up the heavy Green Bean Casserole: Per 1/2-cup serving: 175 cal, 10 g fat (3 g sat), 18 g carbs, 541 mg sodium, 4 g fiber, 5 g protein.   

Pass the Green Beans with Shallots
No need to sabotage a perfectly good vegetable by drowning it in a pool of cream of mushroom soup and deep-fried onions. This lean bean dish delivers just as much flavor and crunch, and it sidesteps two-thirds of the belly-bloating sodium you'll find in a casserole.

1/4 cup olive oil
4 large shallots, peeled and quartered 
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbsp. lemon zest (optional)
1 Spring of Thyme
2 Tbsp reduced-sodium chicken broth
2 lbs green beans, trimmed

1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil.

2. Pour olive oil into a large saute pan over medium heat. Add shallots, garlic, and thyme. Reduce heat to medium-low and saute until shallots are soft, about 10 minutes. Add chicken broth, 3/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper, lemon zest; stir well. Remove from heat. Using a pair of tongs remove the sprig of thyme.

3. Add green beans to boiling water and cook for 5 minutes. Drain. Toss beans with shallot mixture. Serve immediately.

Makes 8 servings
Per 1/2-cup serving: 107 cal, 7 g fat (1 g sat), 12 g carbs, 181 mg sodium, 4 g fiber, 2 g protein

Nutrition Source: Women's Health

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Double Duty Dish

Eating a proper lunch can be a challenge.  For me lunchtime, consist of dropping the morning cheffing gear and getting ready for my next gig.  This means very little time to actually prepare a meal.  I've been working on stocking my fridge with healthy and light lunch alternatives.  This week, I came up with a double duty dinner/lunch.  I sauteed garlic, onion, pepper, zucchini and chicken.  Half of the mixture was prepared with bowie pasta and marinara sauce.  The other half, I tossed with Greek yogurt, curry, and some cilantro for a pasta salad.

Double Duty Chicken


1 red pepper, chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
1 small zucchini, chopped
1 1/4 lb. chicken, cubed
3 sprigs thyme
1 clove garlic, chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1 lemon juiced
1 lb. pasta (of your choice)
1 jar of your favorite marinara

Salad Ingredients (optional)
1 small container of Greek Yogurt
1-2 tablespoon of Madras Curry (to taste)
1/4 cup chopped cilantro or parsley
salt and pepper to taste


Cook the pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water with a splash of oil to keep it from sticking together. Boil for 12 minutes, or according to the directions on the package.  Split the pasta into two portions (you can omit this step if your only making one of the meals).

In a small bowl, toss chicken with thyme, paprika, 1/2 lemon (juiced), salt, pepper and set aside.

Heat a large pan with olive oil.  Add garlic, and cook for one minute. Remove chicken from marinade and pat dry.  Toss in chicken and cook for 2 minutes on one side.  Flip chicken and then toss in the remaining veggies.  Cook until the veggies have softened.

NOW...take half of the mixture and place with reserved pasta.

For the dinner portion, toss in pasta and marinara sauce.  Mix to combine.   Enjoy.

In a small bowl, lemon juice, cilantro, curry, salt, pepper and Greek yogurt.  Mix to combine. Pour the mixture over the pasta mixture.  Toss to combine.  Refrigerate over night.  Check seasoning at this point you may need to add some salt. 

Monday, November 15, 2010


So rarely do I ever post a dessert recipe, but lately I've had a sweet tooth so I wanted something light and sweet, but using the savory ingrdients I have on hand.  Lemons, mint, a mint lemonade granita it is.

Heres is what you will need:

  • 6 lemons
  • 4 cups water
  • honey, to taste
  • Handful of fresh mint leaves

  • Clean and wash the lemons. Cut off the top quarter of the lemons.  Using a grapefruit knife, carefully remove all of the lemon flesh and juice (working over a bowl ensures you won’t lose any).

    Using a food processor (or a blender) toss a handful of washed and dried fresh mint leaves into the work bowl. Add the scooped out lemon flesh and juice, and pulse until mostly pureed. Let mixture stand for 15 minutes, so the mint releases its flavor, then press the mixture through a fine-mesh strainer. You’ll end up with approximately one cup of lemon-mint juice.

    Stir in the water, then the honey, one tablespoon at a time until the mixture is to your desired level of sweetness. Pour the mixture into a large roasting pan or baking dish, large enough that the liquid isn’t more than one-inch deep.

    Freeze for one hour, then remove the mixture and scrape with two forks to break up the ice. (Your freezing time will vary, depending on the temperature and muscle of your freezer.) Return to the freezer and freeze until solid, about 2 to 3 hours, scraping it again with forks every hour or so.  When the granita is frozen, rake until glittery.

    Of course you can use this as a dessert, a palate cleanser or popsicles for the kids.


    Cup of Soup

    For the days leading up to Thanksgiving I begin to cook low fat hight fiber meals to keep my waist line in check.  During the cooler months there is nothing more comforting and nourishing than soups and stews. I incorporate many types of soups as they are filling and inexpensive to make.

    I was gently reminded last night that it had been sometime since I made us a yummy dinner.  Given some choices of meals based on ingredients on hand, we had white chili.  After second glance at my pantry, I realized I did not have navy beans.  Thankfully, I'm a proud owner of a pressure cooker.  1 cup of dried beans to 7-12 cups of water, salt and green chilies.  On the stove they go, giving me time to chop, dice and start my blog.  After about 45 minutes the beans were done.  Of course, you can skip this part completely and use canned white beans.

    The best part of this meal was how easy it truly was.  Here is all the chopping you will have to do.  Come on, you can buy all these ingredients pre-chopped!  And as Ina says, "how easy is that??"

    White Chicken Chili

    1 can diced green chilies
    1 medium onion, chopped
    4 stalks of celery, chopped
    1 red, green or red pepper, chopped
    3 garlic cloves, chopped
    1 large pinch of crushed red pepper flakes (optional- use less if you don't like spicy food)
    2 teaspoons cumin
    1/2 teaspoon chili powder
    1 container of organic chicken broth
    1 can white beans (navy, cannellini, etc.)
    1 to 1 1/2 lb. chicken tenders, chopped
    2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

    Fresh Cilantro
    lime wedges
    organic greek yogurt or sour cream


    In a large pot, heat oil.  Add garlic and red pepper flakes, saute for one minute. 

    Then add peppers, onions and celery - cook until they are soft with golden edges.  Toss in chicken, green chilies, beans, stock, salt and pepper. 

    Bring to a simmer for 10-15 minutes.

    Serve with crusty bread, toasted pita bread or corn chips.  Squeez in lime juice, sprinkle with cilantro and chives.  Then top with a dollop of organic Greek yogurt.

    I loved this soup!  If you love the flavor combination of chicken nachos, then you will absolutely enjoy this soup.