Thursday, July 26, 2012

Chicken and Rice Skillet with Cranberries

A few weeks ago there was a special at giant - buy 5 boxes of Zatarain's rice and get 30 cents off per gallon of gas.  I took advantage of that sale with a coupon that I had.  Spent $4 bucks for 5 boxes of the rice and also saved $1.70 off per gallon of gas (using the other gas points I had earned with other sales).  So I've been building a few of our recipes around the Zatarain's rice.  This one came straight from their website - I did not modify too much.  I could not find creole seasoning, so looked up how to make my own.  That recipe for creole seasoning is first - then I have the ingredients and directions for the dish listed second.  This was a GREAT dish!  Pretty easy to make and would make wonderful leftovers : ) 

And so ends my stretch of July recipes... Things are about to get really busy again with teaching and the students coming back on campus (yep - full time job too!)  Aiden is up on his hands and knees rocking back and forth and a few days away (I'm guessing) from figuring out how to crawl.  The little man will be 8 months on Sunday!  I can't believe how quickly time is flying.  I'll be back in the next few days to post his 8 month pictures : )

Creole seasoning - makes a little more than 1 tbsp, mix all ingredients together:
3/4 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon basil
1/4 teaspoon oregano
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/8 teaspoon thyme
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon onion powder

Ingredients for Chicken and Rice Skillet with Cranberries:
1 pound of boneless, skinless chicken breasts cut into 1 inch strips
1 tbsp. of creole seasoning mix
2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
2 cups of water
1 package of Zatarain's yellow rice
1/2 cup dried cranberries
3/4 cup chopped celery
1/2 cup chopped onion (I still buy mine pre-chopped at the store - saves a ton of time!!!)

Spring chicken with creole seasoning. Heat oil in large nonstick skillet on medium-high heat.  Add chicken; cook 2-3 minutes per side or until chicken is cooked through.  Remove from skillet; keep warm.

Stir water, rice mix, cranberries, celery and onion into skillet.  Bring to a boil.  Place chicken over rice mixture and it's been stirred.  Reduce heat to low; cover and simmer for 20 minutes or until most of the water is absorbed and rice is tender.

Remove from heat.  Let stand 5 minutes and serve.  We served ours with cooked dill carrots - very good!
What ours looked like in the skillet before serving (while I let it stand for the 5 minutes)

Monday, July 23, 2012

Beef & Bell Pepper Fajitas

Remember how I mentioned the other night that I was using some boneless sirloin for the thai beef recipe?  Well this recipe came from using up the other one that I got on the Buy One Get One Free deal.  It took a bit longer than some other recipes, but it was good and made a ton.  We'll both be eating well for lunch tomorrow!

2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil, divided
1 pound boneless sirloin, cut into thin strips
1 pkg of pre-sliced onion and peppers mix from the produce section (I HATE CUTTING ONIONS!)
1 package ZATARAIN'S® Spanish Rice
1 1/2 cups water
1 can (14 1/2 ounces) diced tomatoes - flavored with chilies, undrained
6-8 whole wheat tortillas
Assorted toppings, such as sour cream, salsa and shredded cheese

1. Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in large nonstick skillet on medium-high heat. Add beef; cook and stir 3 to 5 minutes or until meat is no longer pink. Transfer beef to medium bowl. Heat remaining 1 tablespoon oil in skillet. Add vegetables; cook and stir 4-5 minutes or until tender-crisp. Add to beef in bowl. Keep warm.

2. Stir Rice Mix, water and tomatoes into skillet. Bring to boil. Reduce heat to low; cover and simmer 25 minutes or until most of the water is absorbed and rice is tender.

3. Return beef and vegetables to skillet; cook and stir until heated through. Serve in warmed tortillas with assorted toppings, if desired.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Low Sugar Banana Walnut Muffins

This cooking/baking thing has been on a roll lately!  To be honest, I think it's my way of procrastinating some other stuff that has to get done (like finishing the lesson plans for my class coming up... 7 days and counting until that is due!).  Oh well, at least we'll eat well up until that deadline AND my class stuff will get done... it always does.

So tonight I had 2 very ripe bananas staring at me on the counter.  They had gotten brown enough that I knew neither one of us would eat them and I have not been to the grocery store for the week yet because I did enough menu planning from last week to last us through Tuesday.  So what that meant was I needed to use the bananas and I thought Ryan would enjoy something different for breakfast in the morning. 

I found a regular banana bread recipe that was "low calorie" and made it WLS friendly.  Remember - I am a little more than 2.5 years out, so I know I can have a few traces of sugar.  If you are brand new post-op, I'd wait a few months before trying this and go with all splenda substitute instead of the half and half you'll see below. Feel free to email/msg me if you have questions!

1/8 cup splenda for baking
1/8 cup sugar
2 tbsp butter, softened
1 large egg, beaten
1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce (this is marked "made with splenda" and sold in a 6 pk of individual cups)
1 cup ripe bananas, mashed (3 small or 2 large - make sure they are ripe ripe)
3/4 cup all purpose flour (can use 1/2 cup all purpose and 1/4 cup wheat if you'd like)
1/2 cup almond flour (I use Bob's Red Mill brand - this is GREAT for upping the protein content)
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 cup chopped walnuts AND 1/4 cup chocolate chips (I made 6 with walnuts for me and 5 with Chocolate chips for Ryan)  If doing the full batch with walnuts, you'll want 1/2 cup.
Baking spray or muffin wraps for baking
This makes 11 or 12 muffins total

1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees and spray muffin pan with baking spray or line with muffin wraps.
2) In a large mixing bowl, combine softened butter and sugar, and beat with a mixer at low speed until well combined.  Add the egg, vanilla and applesauce, and beat another 30 seconds or until well blended. Fold in the bananas (I used the mixer again on low to get the bananas smooth - Ryan doesn't like the chunky bananas).
3) Combine all types of flour, baking soda, salt and cinnamon in another bowl. Stir until combined.
4) Add the flour mixture to the banana mixture and mix until moistened.
5) Add  batter to individual muffin cups, about 2/3rd's full.
6) Sprinkle tops with walnuts or chocolate chips.  Again, for WLS people - walnuts add another round of protein in and the chocolate chips don't really work for us - unless you can find the sugar free ones, and I never can seem to find them! 
7) Bake at 350 degrees for 17-20 minutes.  Let muffins partially cool before serving.  Ours went nicely with a small glass of skim milk : )

Crockpot Thai Beef with Red Peppers

Oh my gosh - this is seriously the best thing I've made in the longest time.  I don't know if I was just craving something that tasted like that old indulge and do not think about tomorrow chinese food or what, but this hit the spot.  There is some heat to it, but it's matched nicely by the sweetness of the sauce.  The other great thing - we had our garage sale yesterday, we were seriously soaked from the rain in the morning and exhausted by the time it was all said and done AND I still had the energy to throw this in the crock pot.  It was done in 2.5 hours with about 15 minutes prep time.  Easy peasy - my kind of meal!

1 cup of FF, reduced sodium chicken broth
1/3 cup lite soy sauce
1/3 cup reduced fat creamy peanut butter
3 tablespoons of honey
      - it breaks down in the sauce - so if you're WLS, you probably will not have a problem6 cloves of minced garlic
      - or 3 tsp of prepared minced garlic like I use - this pre-done stuff is a god send
2 tablespoons of minced fresh ginger root
      - this was a new one for me, I found this also "pre-made" in the produce section by the pre-made minced garlic.  It was $1.99 for a small bottle.  Well worth it considering actual ginger root looks like a piece of coral - straight up!
1 teaspoon of crushed red pepper flakes
      -  I used cayenne pepper - it worked just fine.
2 red bell peppers, thinking sliced and cut into bite size or 1.5-2inch sections
1 pound of boneless top round sirloin, fat trimmed off - cut into bit size pieces
      -  I always get a couple of these when they are buy one get one free at the store - which is where I came up with the idea for this recipe.   The original recipe I found called for pork chops - I think this was better : )  AND it used up some stuff in the freezer.  The original recipe also called for full blown calories and fat of some of the other ingredients - I modified to make healthier for us.
1 bag of Uncle Ben's 90 second Jasmine or Basmati Rice
     - SO EASY to do it this way!  And a perfect serving size for 2 people.

Combine chicken broth, soy sauce, peanut butter, honey, minced garlic, red pepper, minced ginger, red bell peppers and bite size pieces of sirloin in crock pot.  I used a medium size crock pot and there was plenty of room.  Stir everything together and cook on High for 2.5 hours or on low for 5 hours.  Serve each individual serving over half a bag of Uncle Ben's 90 second Ready Rice.  Pour one spoonful of extra sauce over dish.  YUM!  Can't wait for leftovers at lunch : )

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Whole Wheat Banana Blueberry Pancakes

This was our Sunday morning breakfast this past weekend.  It was one of the recipes that came out of a google search with a few ingredients.  I had blueberries that needed to be used up and a few really ripe bananas - with those 2 things, I was on a mission to make a yummy (free because I already had this stuff) breakfast!  This recipe makes 7-8 pancakes. They are VERY filling, so easily enough for 2-3 adults.

Before they go into the skillet : )
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon sugar or splenda substitute for WLS people
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten divided in half or 1/4 cup of egg beaters
  • 3/4 cup fat-free milk
  • 1 1/2 medium ripe bananas, mashed
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup fresh or frozen blueberries
  • Pam Cooking Spray
  • Sugar Free syrup

  • In a large bowl, combine the flours, sugar, baking powder and salt. Combine the egg, milk, bananas and vanilla; stir into dry ingredients just until moistened.Add in blueberries and stir until mixed in.
  • Pour batter by 1/4 cupfuls onto a hot griddle coated with cooking spray. Turn when bubbles form on top; cook until second side is golden brown. Serve with sugar free syrup.

    **Quick Note** If using frozen blueberries, do not thaw.

Bruschetta Chicken Bake

Recipe #2 of my 3 so far this week (I'd like to point out it's Wednesday - this NEVER happens!)  I'm on a mission... and also procrastinating getting ready for our garage sale on Saturday.  Story of my life, things start getting done at light speed when I have multiple things to do an a deadline that I'm ignoring : )  Either way, we're benefiting from it... new home cooked meals, staying on budget AND we WILL have a garage sale!  (If I keep saying it, it will happen, right???)

This recipe tasted like chicken Parmesan to Ryan and it tasted like deep dish pizza to me.  Either way, we LOVED it and will be doing this again for sure.  Super easy on the clean-up with the foil packets and makes enough for leftovers or 3-4 adults.


1 can  (14.5 oz.) diced tomatoes-garlic and basil flavor, undrained
1pkg.  (6 oz.) STOVE TOP Stuffing Mix Turkey or Chicken flavor - whole wheat for a healthier version
1 tsp of prepared minced garlic - found in the produce section (they have it in a squeezable tube now - it's awesome!)
5 or 6 boneless skinless chicken breast halves (1-1/2 lb.)
2 tsp of dried basil leaves
1 1/2cup  KRAFT 2% Milk Shredded Mozzarella Cheese
Pam Original Cooking Spray
Heat oven to 400ºF.   If using regular tinfoil, prepare 6 squares of foil, 2 sheets of foil each, and spray with cooking spray.  In 1.5qt. or larger mixing bowl stir tomatoes (undrained), stuffing mix and garlic just until stuffing mix is moistened. Place 1 chicken breast on center of each of 6 large foil square sprayed with cooking spray; sprinkle each chicken breast with a dash of dried basil, then spoon stuffing mixture on top of chicken and top with cheese. Bring up foil sides; fold to make packets. Place in pan with at least a 1 inch lip.
Bake 40-45 minutes or until chicken is done (165ºF). Let rest in the packet for 5-10 min. before serving. Serve in the packet. 

Creamy Tomato-Basil Shrimp Pasta

I'm on a roll - 3 for 3 this week of new recipes.  This is the third recipe I've attempted and it was a success.  Still have to post recipe number 2 - that's coming!

If you've ever had Bertoli, this tastes somewhat like that.  Pretty easy.  I changed some things about the recipe to make it work with what we had in the freezer/cupboard, but the original idea came from kraft foods website.

1 1/2 cups of farfalle (bow-tie pasta) - 12 oz. box (use whole wheat or a mix if you want it to be healthier like we did)
2 tbsp. Kraft sun dried tomato vinaigrette dressing
8 oz. bag of Gorton's Grilled Shrimp Scampi - found in the frozen section
5/8's cup of chicken broth (sub fat-free/reduced sodium if you want a healthier option)
3 oz. of neufchatel cheese - cubed
1 cup of cut grape tomatoes
1/4 cup of parmesan cheese
4 fresh basil leaves, ripped up or cut into slices

Make pasta according to package directions.  In a large skillet, heat 2 tbsp. of dressing and add frozen shrimp.  Cook shrimp on medium high heat for 5-6 minutes, stirring frequently.  Next add chicken broth and seasonings to skillet.  Cook an additional 2 minutes - continually stirring. Add neufchatel cheese; cook and stir and additional 2-3 minutes.  Add cut up tomatoes and shredded basil leaves; cook 2 minutes.

Drain pasta.  Do not rinse after draining.  Add pasta noodles to skillet with shrimp and stir together.  Serve hot with lite garlic bread for an olive garden like dinner without all the calories and the price tag!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Crab Cakes from scratch!

So being from Iowa - I never considered that I would 1 - enjoy crab cakes or 2 - have the guts to try and make them on my own.  Well, Giant had a buy one get one free on their crab meat last week that I took advantage. Then I went in search of a recipe that I could handle that would use up the crab, give us some serious protein AND would push me outside of my comfort zone.  I have been cooking lately - I go in spurts, but it's the usual stuff that we had been making over the last 2 years.  I feel like this is the last true week of summer.  I start teaching again in August, the students come back to my "real" full-time job, Aiden is more and more active every single minute, my parents are coming to visit and we're having a garage sale this weekend.  Wow - all of that makes me feel anxious just typing it.  So when I planned our weekly menu this past weekend, I set out to tackle at least 4 or 5 new recipes because I know I will not have time again for quite some time!  I found a similar recipe for crab cakes on and modified it to fit my dietary WLS needs and make things just a bit more healthy : )  Here ya go...

10 whole wheat Ritz crackers, finely crushed
2 tablespoons of light mayo
1/2 tsp  of honey dijon mustard
1/2 tsp of old bay seasoning
1/4 tsp of Worcestershire sauce
1 large egg, beaten
a pinch of garlic salt
a pinch of cayenne pepper
16 oz. of imitation crab meat - found in resealable packages in the meat/seafood area (2 pkgs, most pkgs are only 8 oz)
1 cup of original flavor panko breadcrumbs
3 tablespoons of margarine

  1. Mix crushed crackers, mayonnaise, mustard, old bay, Worcestershire sauce, egg, salt, and cayenne pepper in a large bowl.
  2. Stir in crab meat until mixture is combined but still chunky (I used a knife and fork to shred ours - it wouldn't make a nice patty if it was too chunky). Cover and refrigerate for 20 minutes.
  3. Sprinkle breadcrumbs on a plate or in a large flat dish.
  4. Shape chilled crab mixture into 4 or 5 patties; coat completely with bread crumbs.
  5. Melt margarine in a skillet over medium-low heat; cook crab cakes until golden brown, about 4 minutes per side, flattening if they are too thick in the middle.  Make sure to wait to flatten until they have crisped up a bit or else they will fall apart.
  6. Serve with tartar sauce, lemon wedge or cocktail sauce.  I did mine straight up - no sauce or lemon and they were great!!!
What they looked like in the skillet before I flipped them to finish off the other side : )