Chris' Recipes

Bon Appetite!

“Lighter” Orange Cupcakes

Written By: Chris - Apr• 11•16

I was hosting a couple of gatherings last weekend and wanted to serve dessert.  Since we’re trying to cut back a bit, getting ready for swimsuit season I had to put some thought into this!  It was our daughter in law Bri’s birthday – so we had to have cake!  I went with cupcakes because it’s easier to proportion and then I could also send leftovers home with the guests!  I’m a firm believer in “real” ingredients and not a fan of many substitutes so after researching a bit, this recipe was developed from one I found online called healthy cupcakes – and it included a low sugar filler.  “For more than 100 years, Smucker’s® has been making life more fruitful by bringing you delicious fruit spreads and smiles.”  With more than 40 varieties, from the Apple Butter of their roots to the ever-popular Strawberry Preserves, they claim to have a flavor for just about everyone.  I don’t use a lot of jelly’s or jams due to the typical sugar content but decided to use the Smucker’s Low Sugar – Reduced Sugar Preserves in this recipe that offered a way to “enjoy the fruitful side of life with half the sugar”.  I went with the LOW SUGAR™ REDUCED SUGAR ORANGE MARMALADE, which is made with whole citrus fruit, including the rind.  Traditionally sweetened with sugar, fruit juice-sweetened, it’s easy to find at most supermarkets.  It really added a lush and tangy flavor that made these cupcakes bright and delicious!  They are really easy to make as well.

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Ingredients: 

I box Vanilla Cake Mix
1/2 Cup Water
1/3 Cup Canola Oil
3/4 Cup Egg Beaters
1 12.75 jar Low Sugar Orange Marmalade, divided
Sugar-Free Whipped Topping

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Line 24 muffin cups with paper cupcake liners.

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Combine the cake mix, water, oil, egg beaters and 3/4 cup of the orange marmalade in a bowl. Beat the ingredients with an electric mixer on medium-high speed for two minutes.  Use a scoop and fill the muffin paper liners two-thirds of the way full with the batter.

Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until the tops spring back and they are golden on top.

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While they are warm, spread the top of each cupcake with about 1/2 to one teaspoon of the remaining orange marmalade, using it up entirely.

Cool completely on a cooling rack and top with whipped topping just before serving.

Each cupcake is 5 SmartPoints on the WeightWatchers program.

Enjoy!
Cheers!!
~Chris

 

 

 

Crustless Quiche with Sundried Tomatoes, Asparagus, and Goat Cheese

Written By: Chris - Mar• 30•16

I wanted to prepare a quick grab breakfast that was healthy, but delicious.  We’ve always got eggs on hand, but reached for the carton at the grocery store this time because it was inexpensive, and I thought would make throwing together a quiche a little easier.  I almost always use “real” ingredients and gave up on the light, fat-free type of stuff some time ago.  The carton of “Better’n Eggs” said that it was made with real eggs right on the package!  Upon closer review, I’ve discovered that it’s mostly egg whites.  Although it looked like scrambled up eggs, similar to the Egg-Beaters brand, that according to Wikipedia is a product marketed in the United States as a healthy substitute for chicken eggs.  Egg Beaters is primarily egg whites with added flavorings, vitamins, and thickeners xanthan gum and guar gum, but it contains no egg yolks.

Similarly, Better’n Eggs is made with 98% egg whites, it is fat- and cholesterol-free, low in calories, and loaded with essential nutrients and vitamins such as folic acid, riboflavin, vitamins A, B-12, D and E.  Their website claims “From omelets to desserts, they can be used in any recipe that calls for eggs.”  I’m left wondering what the other 2% is?  This brand also makes a product called “AllWhites” which is 100% liquid egg whites.  They market this as a convenient, fat-free, cholesterol-free and low-calorie alternative to regular eggs – ideal when it comes to fueling your fitness goals and maintaining a healthy lifestyle. They’re a lean source of protein and can be used in any recipe that calls for eggs.  Egg whites aren’t bad for you, but in my opinion don’t carry the richness of flavors.  Regardless, this crustless quiche is very flavorful with all of its other ingredients and happens to be low in points if you are following the Weight Watchers Points™ program.

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Ingredients:

1 Onion, medium, chopped (0 points)
2 Tablespoons Olive Oil (8 points)
1 1/2 Cups Better’n Eggs (0 points)
1/2 Cup low-fat Buttermilk (2 points)
1 Yellow Roasted Pepper, jarred (0 points)
2 oz. Sundried Tomatoes (8 points)
1 1/2 Cup Asparagus, chopped (0 points)
2 oz. Goat Cheese, soft, crumbled (6 points)
1/2 Zucchini, chopped (0 points)
Salt & Pepper, to taste
1/2 Cup Colby Jack Cheese, shredded (8 points)

Saute the onions in the olive oil over medium heat until translucent.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Chop all of the vegetables into small bite-size pieces and set aside.
Combine eggs with buttermilk and crumbled pieces of the goat cheese.

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Gently stir the vegetables into the egg mixture.
Spray a round baking dish with non-stick spray and pour in the egg mixture.
Sprinkle with shredded cheese.
Bake uncovered for 45 minutes until the top springs back gently by touch.

Allow to cool for at least five to ten minutes.  Serve at room temperature or warmed.  Garnish with fresh basil and fresh tomatoes.
Cut into 8 equal pieces = 4 Weight Watchers Points™ each.

Enjoy!
Cheers!
~Chris

 

 

 

Pork, Curry Wild Rice Soup

Written By: Chris - Mar• 29•16

I prepared this soup earlier in March, but thought since it’s going to get cold again at the end of the week, this might be a consideration for your dinner table.  I had a couple of large, leftover boneless pork chops on hand and decided to make a pork version of my wild rice soup!  We’re forever trying to incorporate better choices into our diet and wild rice is a great option!

I’ve mentioned this before, but despite its name, wild rice is not rice at all but are the seeds of edible grasses native to North America.  It’s easy to find Minnesota Wild rice in the grocery stores.  Native Americans harvested wild rice in canoes, using long sticks to knock the seeds into the bottom of their boats.  This grain is not only delicious but has some impressive health benefits.  Did you know that a one-cup serving of wild rice contains 50 fewer calories and almost 10 fewer grams of carbohydrate than a cup of brown rice?  It also provides more protein, zinc, and potassium than both brown and white rice varieties and is significantly higher in folate (Folic acid plays an important role in the production of red blood cells) and most of the other B vitamins.  It is very rich in antioxidants – containing up to 30 times more than white rice, which means regular consumption of wild rice protects you from disease and aging.  Because of its high fiber content, wild rice keeps your digestion smooth and helps lower cholesterol.

I suggest cooking a batch and storing it in the refrigerator to use and add it to dishes throughout the week.  Toss it with lentils or beans, stir into casseroles.  I love it as a cold salad or in soup!!  The curry makes this soup very unique and oh, so good!

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Ingredients:

2 Pork Chops, boneless, cooked (about 3 to 4 Cups cubed meat)
1/2 lb. Bacon, chopped 
1 Cup Carrots, chopped
1 Large Onion, chopped
1 Cup Celery, chopped
1  Cup Wild Rice, measured dry
2 Tablespoons Better than Bouillion Base
1 Package Pork Gravy Mix
2 Quarts Chicken Stock
1/2 Cups Half & Half
2 Tablespoons Thyme, dried
1 Tablespoon Onion Powder
1 Tablespoon Granulated Garlic
2 Tablespoons Yellow Curry Powder
Salt & Pepper, to taste

Cook Pork chops and allow them to rest before chopping them into bite-size chunks.

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Clean, peel, and chop vegetables into small dime sized or smaller pieces.

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Cook the bacon and onions together until the onions are translucent and the bacon is browned.

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Add the chopped carrots and continue to saute over medium heat until they begin to soften, stirring occasionally about five minutes.

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Rinse wild rice under cold water and allow to sit in the colander so that excess water is removed.

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Add the chopped celery and rice to the bacon and onion, stirring frequently while cooking for about an additional five minutes. Season with salt and pepper and the other herbs.  over and stir frequently allowing rice to cook about two hours stirring occasionally

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Stir in the stock and gravy mix well.  Add the pork and cover.  Stir frequently allowing rice to cook at least an hour until the rice is curled and cooked through.  Taste the soup and add the bouillion base to taste for more flavor.

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Stir in the half and half and allow to simmer over low heat stirring, occasionally until thick.

Enjoy!

Cheers!
~Chris

Shrimp and Dill Pasta Salad

Written By: Chris - Mar• 16•16

I generally still make an effort to cook while traveling if the accommodations will allow it.  Our gracious hosts fed us lunch most days while we were in South Africa spending our days in the cellars at Overgaauw Wine Estates.  Nicole is a wonderful cook and though we sincerely appreciated their generosity, we didn’t want to take advantage of their hospitality so I tried to contribute here and there!

Sticking to my philosophy of preparing dishes with ingredients that I have on hand, I got creative with the assembly of the meals, which turned out pretty good!  There were a few different options nearby to purchase groceries at including supermarket chains Checkers, Spar (also Super Spar), and WOOLWORTHS.

Each of these grocery stores was a bit different.  Spar was the closest to our cottage and seemed to be most reasonable in price.  Its name is also the root of the verb that means “to save (money)“.  These are mid-sized supermarkets and are designed to fit in a niche between convenience stores and traditional supermarkets.  Checkers is a supermarket chain that focuses more strongly on fresh produce offering a wider range of choice food items to a more affluent clientele, although I really felt like “Woolies” (as the locals call it) had more of a feel similar to our Byerly’s or Lunds, having that “rich or prosperous” shopper type of feel.  It is a chain of retail stores that is one of the largest in South Africa.  It incorporates a series of food stores, some of which are attached to department stores that in addition to food, carry homewares, clothing, and footwear.  They are acclaimed the best store in customer care.

Although we ate great seafood in many restaurants, overall I had a hard time finding much variety available in the grocery stores.  I found the shrimp at Woolies, but there were only a couple of packages.  We also bought other white fish that was delicious, but seafood seemed higher priced then other proteins.  The Peeled Prawns 200g (about 1 lb.) were R 89.99 (about $6 a package).

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Ingredients: 

1/2 lb. Bowtie Pasta, al dente
1/2 Cup Mayonnaise
1/2 Cup Greek Yogurt
2 Tablespoons Cream
1 lb. Shrimp, cooked 
1 English Cucumber, sliced
1/2 Onion, minced
1 Cup Grape Tomatoes
1/2 Cup Italian Parsley, fresh, chopped
1/3 Cup Chives, fresh, chopped fine
3-4 Tablespoons Dried Dill
2 Tablespoons Honey
Salt & Pepper, to taste 

I used about a half a package of pasta.  Cook the pasta in salted water according to package directions, removing from water when the texture is al denta.  I drizzled with good olive oil so that the pasta wouldn’t stick. (Our lodging was on an olive farm after all!) Allow to cool completely in the refrigerator, covered.

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Combine the mayo, greek yogurt, and cream and mix well.  Combine with minced onion and sliced cucumber.  Stir in the dried dill (I would use fresh if available) and add the chopped parsley and chives, reserving parsley and chives for a garnish.  Chop tomatoes in half.

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Remove the tails from the shrimp and keep them chilled on ice, but drain off any access water before adding them to the salad.

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Season the cucumber mixture with honey, to taste.

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Gently combine the shrimp with the cucumbers and fold in the tomatoes.

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Garnish with chopped parsley and chives, serve chilled.

Enjoy!
Cheers!
~Cheers

Chunky Tomato Basil Soup

Written By: Chris - Mar• 11•16

Bill and I recently returned back to “winter’ after spending a month of summer in South Africa.  Upon our return, we grabbed take out lunch at Perkin’s and enjoyed a small bowl of their delicious soup.  It was surprisingly good and had us craving more.  Thick, creamy soup made with tomatoes as the primary ingredient is one of my ultimate comfort foods.  Classic tomato soup does not have chunks but I wanted the chunks this time because I was trying to duplicate our lunch that we enjoyed so much.  This recipe is also different because I used a good amount of buttermilk and chose canned San Marzano tomatoes for the bulk of the soup.  The tomatoes are imported from Italy and have consistently good flavor.  They have thick flesh, relatively few seeds, and a sweeter, less acidic flavor than other tomato varieties.  Watch for them to go on special because they can be spendy.  Though they are widely available at supermarkets, I have found these large cans from Costco at a value.  The reason I went for the buttermilk is because somehow I ended up with two quarts on hand when restocking the fridge and I needed to use some of it up.  It worked beautifully while cutting down on fat and calories, but I did use some cream because I  really wanted the richness that it brings!

If you’re not feeding a crowd, or don’t wish to freeze any soup, you could easily half or even quarter this recipe.  Whenever I make soup, I like to go big.  It’s more fun to share and makes for a quick meal down the road.

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Ingredients:

6 lb. Tomatoes, peeled, canned (Italian San Marzano are best)
8 14.5 oz cans Petite Diced Tomatoes (reserve for later in recipe)
1 Cup Butter
2 Onions, medium sweet, diced
2 Cups Carrots, diced
2 1/2 Cups Celery, Chopped
4 Garlic Cloves, pressed
1 Quart Buttermilk
1 Cup 1/2 & 1/2
1 Cup Heavy Cream
4 Cups Chicken Stock, homemade
1/4 Cup Sugar
2 Tablespoons Better than Bouillion, Chicken
1 Cup Fresh Basil, chopped
1/3 Cup Basil, dried
2 Tablespoons Red Pepper Flakes
Salt & fresh ground Black Pepper, to taste 

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In a heavy pot, (I use the church pan, but a dutch oven works perfectly for smaller batches) heat the butter.  Chop the sweet onion, celery, and carrots into small pieces and saute them in the butter.  Season with salt and pepper.  Cook over medium-low heat until the vegetables begin to turn translucent and slightly browned, add the garlic cloves and cook for an additional minute or two.

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Open the large can of tomatoes and pour them in.  Stir occasionally, simmering on very low cooking for about fourty five minutes or up to an hour or more .

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Add the chicken stock, stir and continue to cook on low heat for at least a half an hour.

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Use the immersion blender and process the soup until it is smooth.

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Add buttermilk, and half and half, continuing to blend until very smooth.

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Add the diced tomatoes, herbs, sugar and soup flavoring.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Also add the cream near the end of the process to taste.

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Allow the soup to cook as long as you have time for.  It will begin to turn from bright red to a more orange colorI believe that the longer it can cook on low heat, the better the flavor.  We enjoyed some for dinner, but I allowed it to cook on VERY low (not a boil) overnight before cooling and freezing.

Serve with with crunchy, delicious croutons or a grilled cheese sandwich.  I served “flat out’s” seasoned simply with extra virgin olive oil, a bit of garllic and onion powder and a couple of kinds of shredded cheese including cheddar and mozzarella; baked in the oven until crispy!

Enjoy!

Cheers!
~Chris