Friday, November 3, 2017

BBQ Chicken Jalapeno Pizza

In my mission to create a delicious pizza (which the entire family loves) and also keep it low-sodium and *heart healthy, here's what I came up with today. It was a big hit, and one I'll certainly be making again. It looks a bit involved, but it really isn't. There's just a lot of stuff going on in this pizza and it's totally worth it!

BBQ CHICKEN JALAPENO PIZZA

INGREDIENTS

2 multi-grain or whole wheat thin pizza crusts
1/2 cup (divided) low sodium pizza sauce
1 cup low sodium BBQ sauce (divided)
1 lb. extra lean ground chicken, crumbled and browned
1/2 sweet yellow pepper, chopped
1/2 sweet green pepper, chopped
1/4 c. red onion, chopped
2 jalapeno peppers, seeded and chopped
1/2 cup hot banana pepper rings
1/2 cup (each), low-fat cheddar, shredded, low-fat mozzarella, shredded and low-fat asiago, shredded (all divided - each pizza gets 1/4 cup of each type of cheese)
Garlic powder

METHOD

Pre-heat oven to 450 (or whatever your pizza crust directions indicate). In a medium sized frying pan, brown the chicken and add 1/4 c. BBQ sauce. Let simmer in the sauce for 10-15 minutes then remove from burner and set aside. Meanwhile, chop your peppers and onion and toss into a medium sized bowl.  Toss several times to make sure they're blended well.  Line two pizza pans with parchment paper and place your crusts on top. Line each crust with 1/4 cup each of pizza sauce and BBQ sauce.  Apply the sauce in a spiral fashion, from the center of the crust and working your way out then spread with a spatula to assure an even coating all the way around. Layer on each crust, half the chicken and half the veggies (or use less if you prefer a thinner pizza - save some of the meat and veggies in air tight containers and use in another recipe).  Over the meat and veggies, sprinkle the cheddar, mozzarella and asiago. Finally, give each pizza a generous shake of garlic powder.  Bake for 10 minutes, then enjoy!

*In our house, "heart healthy" means low sodium, low or zero trans fat, low calorie and low or zero cholesterol. I aim for all categories in any given recipe.  I don't always get there with every single category but I get pretty close and that's the important part of transitioning from a junk way of eating to a clean and healthy way!


Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Eggplant Parmesan (Made Over)

At the local farmer's market this past weekend we picked up a couple of small eggplants, determined to try it. Never having purchased, prepared or even tasted it before, I was pretty excited about it. After watching countless youtube videos on prep, and reading loads of recipes I came up with my own and it was a huge hit with the whole family. We'll definitely be having this again, and often.

INGREDIENTS:

2 small eggplants
salt
1 1/2 c. whole wheat panko
1 1/4 c. grated low-fat grated Parmesan cheese (divided)
3/4 c. flour
2 eggs
1 ball low-fat or light mozzarella, sliced 1/4 inch thick
1 jar low sodium pasta sauce (I used PC Blue Menu Tomato and Basil Pasta Sauce)

METHOD:

Rinse the eggplants and cut off the stem ends and discard. Slice the rest of the eggplant about 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick. Place on a wire rack on a baking sheet and salt each slice, then turn over and salt the other side. Let sit for 2 hours. After the time is up, rinse well then give each piece an extra squeeze.

BAKED EGGPLANT ROUNDS 
Pre-heat your oven to 425. Rinse and dry your baking sheet and line with parchment paper and give it a good spray of cooking spray. Set aside. Set up your breading station by setting bowls of flour, 2 eggs slightly whisked, and panko and 1/4 cup of Parmesan cheese - in that order. Dip each round of eggplant into the flour, dredge through the egg, then press into the panko on both sides to fully coat.  Place on the baking sheet and repeat with all the rounds. Spray the top of each round with another spritz of cooking spray. Bake for 20 minutes, turning over half way.  When done, remove and let cool 15 minutes or so, until they're cool enough to handle. Reduce oven temp to 350.

In a 9x13 baking dish, place about 1/2 cup pasta sauce to cover the bottom then layer eggplant rounds, mozzarella rounds and sprinkle with half the Parmesan.  Cover each round with a spoonful of pasta sauce and repeat for the second layer.  Bake for 35 minutes and let sit for about 10 minutes before serving.

This is definitely a time-intensive recipe, but if you have the time, it's definitely worth trying for a delicious, low-fat, low sodium family dinner.

Monday, October 23, 2017

A Funny Thing Happened...

on the way to the kitchen today.

It started with looking for expert advice on eggplant (how to choose and cook) and then got sidetracked with a fabulous *sounding* recipe for roasted Brussels Sprouts, and was completely blown out of the water by a recipe for Avocado Double Chocolate Brownies. Wait. What?

After hubby suffered his heart attack 8 weeks ago, we've been determined to eat clean, eat healthy and incorporate foods into our regular diet that we've just neglected over the years either because we thought we didn't like them, or just because we really had no interest in them. After a trip to the local farmer's market this weekend and picking up some eggplant and brussels sprouts, we were determined to find tried and true recipes for both. I'm pretty sure I've hit the Mother Lode with Dani Spies site cleananddelicious.com

While we're no experts by any stretch of the imagination, we're not completely ignorant either, when it comes to clean and healthy eating since we jumped on that bandwagon a few years ago - and both lost a ton of weight between us. There is much truth to the saying "great abs are made in the kitchen, not in the gym". We just did what a lot of folks do - started out great, and then fell off the wagon for a million reasons.

Well, now we're back on the wagon for life (for much different reasons), and this is one fantastic site for sure.   Tonight's dinner was Eggplant Parmesan (Made Over!),  Roasted Brussels Sprouts and dessert was the ridiculously delish Avocado Double Chocolate Brownies.

I forgot to snap a pic of the finished Eggplant Parm but here's the eggplant before it was smothered in low-sodium pasta sauce and sliced "light"  mozza.  The eggplant looked so good and smelled so good, covered in whole wheat panko and shredded parm. I wondered why I was even considering smothering it in sauce and cheese and covering up the crispy goodness.  While it did turn out quite wonderful, the next time I make it I am most certainly serving the eggplant on it's own, with a dipping sauce. Probably with an olive oil/garlic/parm tossed pasta on the side. (Just a side note, the eggplant parm recipe didn't come from the Clean and Delicious site - I created it myself after watching loads of videos on how to prepare eggplant and reading loads of recipes).

For the Brussels Sprouts, follow this recipe exactly.  Literally, do that. I forgot to snap a pic of mine, but they actually looked identical to the pic in this recipe. And they tasted ridiculously wonderful. Hubby and I both called them "veggie candy". Yes, they were that good. Everyone at the table loved them, including the teenage boy who avoids vegetables like the plague.

Lastly, this was dessert. I wasn't even looking for a dessert but it sort of jumped off the page and latched onto my face like Alien. You know? Right? Stuff happens.

The recipe for this fantastic looking and tasting dish is here, and you need to make it today. You really do. Especially if you have avocados sitting around that needed to be used *yesterday* like I did. I bought them a few days ago but we've been doing some Italian cuisine so they just didn't blend in well. This was a really good use for them.

I'll be posting my Eggplant Parmesan (Made Over!) recipe soon, so be on the lookout for that.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Roasted Veggie Soup

Today's kitchen challenge was a recipe I came across that just looked rather boring and bland, so I decided to kick things up a bit. I'm sure glad I did! I had some beets that needed attention right away and because almost no one in my family besides me likes beets, I needed a way to incorporate them without anyone going "eww, beets?". It almost worked. The literal PINK soup gave it away but the taste was a hit with everyone, and that made me very happy.

INGREDIENTS:

2 medium sized baking potatoes, scrubbed and chopped
2 c. diced, peeled beets (about 6 medium sized beets)
2 carrots sliced 1/2 inch thick
1 medium sized onion, peeled and chopped
6 cloves garlic
4 T. olive oil
2 t. Mrs. Dash Original Blend
1/4 t. smoked paprika
1/2 t. pepper
1/2 t. NoSalt
2 stalks celery, chopped
4 c. no salt added or reduced sodium chicken stock
2 c. half & half cream

Prepare all your veggies (except the celery) and set aside in a large bowl. In a smaller bowl wish together oil and all the seasonings. Pour over veggie mixture and toss to make sure all veggies are coated evenly. Pour veggies onto a parchment lined baking sheet and roast in the oven at 400 for 1 hour. Turn after 30 minutes for even roasting.

Place the chicken stock and celery in a large pot and once the veggies are done in the oven, toss them in and bring to a quick boil over medium high heat. Reduce to low and simmer for 45 minutes to one hour, until veggies are very tender. You can mash with a potato masher, or blend in a blender or use an immersion blender (I find my immersion blender works best) to chop the veggies into a rich, creamy texture.  Add the half and half and whisk well to heat through.

Serve topped with whole wheat seasoned croutons and a green salad.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Deep Fried Zucchini Made Over

Another family favorite - fried zucchini. Only in this version, it's 100% guilt (and fat) free and no sacrifice in taste or crunch. But you have to be careful to follow the directions closely to make sure you don't miss out on the crunchy deep fried goodness of baked zucchini (yes, it can be done!)  We really like to have these as a side to spaghetti or any other Italian dish.

Ingredients:

1 med-large zucchini

1 1/2 c. whole wheat panko
1 t. garlic powder
1/4 t. salt (or NoSalt)
1 t. minced onion
1/2 t. coarse ground pepper
1/2 t. basil
1/2 t. oregano
1/2 t. smoked paprika
1 egg

Pre-heat oven to 450. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper and spray generously with cooking spray.

Slice your zucchini into 1/4 inch slices. Be sure to keep them thin - this makes all the difference in how well they'll crisp up. Lay the slices in a single layer on paper towel and sprinkle some salt on them - then cover with more paper towel.  This helps draw out some of the moisture and also helps in how they'll bake up nice and crisp.  While you're "sweating" your zucchini, mix your spices with the panko, then whisk up an egg in a separate, small bowl.

Dry off your zucchini then dip slices one at a time in the egg, then into the panko mixture, pressing down each slice to evenly coat. Transfer to the cookie sheet in a single layer. Once all slices are done, give them a generous spray of cooking oil and bake for 30 minutes, turning once after 15 minutes.  Serve hot with cucumber dill sipping sauce (Kraft salad dressing) or your favorite dip.

Spicy Italian (It's Really Not) Sausage

Doctor's orders: "eliminate sausage". 
Wife's response: "challenge accepted!"

Here's a great alternative that you can easily make ahead, freeze and use in a wide variety of dishes, from pizza toppings, meatballs, spaghetti sauce and anything else you'd want to use hot Italian sausage for.

1 lb. lean ground turkey
1/4 c. red wine
1 T. sugar
1/4 t. salt
1/2 T. garlic powder
1/2 t. oregano
1 t. pepper
1 t. smoked paprika
1 t. fennel seed
1/4 t. anise seed
1/4 t. parsley flakes
1/4 t. red pepper flakes
1/4 t. cayenne pepper
1/4 t. minced onion
1/8 t. coriander seed

Mix all ingredients together thoroughly so all seasonings are well blended into the meat. Use immediately (brown the same way you'd brown ground beef for any recipe)  or shape into meatballs or thin patties to freeze.

1 batch goes a long way. Tonight I used half for 2 medium Italian sausage pizzas and the other half went into a spaghetti sauce for another night.  Enjoy!

Friday, October 13, 2017

Oven Baked Red Onion Rings

In my ongoing effort to makeover some of our family favorite foods into heart healthy versions, my latest project was the much loved, deep fried, crispy onion ring.  There are those who say you can't beat the taste of a deep fried onion ring but I think I may have come up with a serious contender.  I'm an onion ring fanatic and my favorite are from A&W and these taste almost like theirs. Without the fat and junk, so there's an added bonus.

OVEN BAKED RED ONION RINGS

Pre-heat oven to 450. Grease a large cookie sheet with olive oil spray.

Ingredients:

1 medium sized red onion, sliced into rings
2 c. whole wheat panko
1/2 c. all purpose flour
2 egg whites
2 T. *milk
1/2 t. each: *salt, smoked paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, oregano and basil
1/4 t. cayenne pepper

Place onion rings in a large ziploc and toss with the 1/2 cup flour, and salt and pepper. Set aside.

Whisk egg whites and milk, then in a separate bowl mix together the panko and seasonings. One onion ring at a time, dip into the egg mixture then into the panko mixture until well coated. Place onto cookie sheet and when the cookie sheet is full, give the onion rings another spray of cooking oil.

Bake for 12-15 minutes. Makes roughly 20-24 onion rings.

(We use NoSalt and Oat milk, any type of milk will work for this).

Friday, October 6, 2017

I Swear, It's Totally NOT Sausage

One of my family's favorite sides at the holidays since (literally, the beginning of time?) forever, is my southern cornbread sausage stuffing. I've always made it, and always made it exactly the same way.

However, after hubby's heart attack we've done a huge 180 on the way we've been cooking/eating. If you make a sausage stuffing (or if you just love breakfast sausage) have I got a phenomenal new recipe for you that you're going to LOVE. This is a great replacement for the sausage in your stuffing and your family will never notice a difference. Or, mostly likely never notice a difference. I utterly adore pork breakfast sausage and I had this today and could literally not tell the difference.

Without delay, here it is:

Totally Not Sausage Breakfast Sausage

1 lb. lean ground turkey
1/2 t. No-salt
1/2 t. dried parsley
1/4 t. ground sage
1/4 t. ground black pepper
1/4 t. dried thyme
1/4 t. crushed red pepper flakes
1/4 t. ground coriander seed

Place ground turkey and all the spices in a bowl and blend well. Use 1/4 cup to measure for sausage patties for breakfast sandwiches. Use in place of crumbled, browned sausage in gravies (biscuits and whole wheat gravy? Hello!)  or in any recipe that calls for pork breakfast sausage.

Friday, September 29, 2017

Recipe: Thanksgiving Harvest Time Stuffing

Anyone who knows me well, knows my family traditions are sort of a huge deal to me. Especially when it comes to holiday family traditions.  It sort of goes like this:

Once it's been established, it never ever ever changes. Ever. It remains a tradition, forever. And ever. (More or less). So when hubby had a heart attack last month and the doctor basically said "change your lifestyle or you will die" (he actually did say that, he just said it in a different way), that meant changing the way we eat. Big time.  So for the last 4 weeks we've done a major overhaul on literally everything we eat - to low fat, low sodium, low sugar, low everything-bad-for-you and it's been a great change.

One big challenge though was the idea of holiday cooking coming up so I've been on the hunt for a great, heart-healthy stuffing and I think I may have just come up with the perfect answer that sort of blended several different ideas into one. My own holiday stuffing always gets rave reviews (it's cornbread/sausage stuffing, it's kind of insane how wonderful it is) but bottom line? It's terrible for a heart-healthy/low-sodium diet.

So... without further delay, here's a stuffing recipe I made today that was a BIG hit.

Harvest Time Stuffing

1 pound whole wheat bread, cut into 1 inch pieces (I used a cranberry/pumpkin seed bread - and it was amazing)

3/4 c. raw, unsalted walnuts, chopped

2/3 c. dried, unsweetened cranberries

1 T. Canola oil

1 c. finely chopped sweet onion (about 1/4 of a large onion)

1 celery stalk, chopped (about 1/2 c.)

1 c. chopped, fresh mushrooms

1 Granny Smith apple, peeled, cored and diced

2 T. ground parsley

1 T. ground sage

1 T. ground thyme

No-Salt and freshly ground pepper

2 c. no salt added chicken broth

Olive oil spray

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place cubed bread on a cookie sheet and toast for about 10 minutes, tossing half-way thru. (I had to do 2 batches so the bread cubes lay flat on the cookie sheet without overlap). Once they're all toasted, toss into a large bowl with walnuts and cranberries.

2. In a large, non-stick skillet, heat oil over medium. Add onion, celery & mushrooms and saute for about 5 minutes. Add apple and saute for another 3-4 minutes. Add parsley, sage & thyme and toss quickly just until fragrant. Remove from heat and salt (No-Salt) and pepper to taste.

3. Add the onion-apple mixture to the bread in the bowl & stir to combine. Add chicken broth 1/2 cup at a time to evenly coat the bread mixture without making it soggy. Once evenly coated with broth, spoon the stuffing into a greased (sprayed with olive oil) casserole dish. Cover with foil and bake for 25 minutes. Uncover the dish and lightly spray the top with olive oil and bake for another 20-25 minutes until the top is crispy and golden brown.

(I served this tonight with baked apples & sweet potatoes, lemon-rosemary baked chicken, and homemade fat-free, low-sodium chicken gravy - which everyone also loved. I haven't posted those recipes yet but I can if anyone wants them.)

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

When Life Does "The Thing" And Freaks You Out

There are certain things in life that happen to people, that you always hope and pray will never happen to you. Never. As in... never ever ever.

One of those things is "that phone call" at some ungodly hour where most normal people are sleeping but... someone isn't, because someone you love dearly is in distress, and you're getting a phone call about it.   That was my house last Tuesday morning. I think it was around 5:30-ish?  It could have been earlier, I'm not really sure. I just heard it ringing, realized it was still an ungodly hour and braced myself for whatever the message was about to me, when I picked up.

"There is no easy way to say this, but Kev has had a heart attack and he's in ICU".  Said the voice on the other end of the line. Immediately my brain went into auto-pilot.  

When, where, how, how bad, which hospital, what floor? All I needed were the facts, as I was getting dressed while asking and hearing the answers. In the back of my mind and from the deepest place in my heart I kept hearing a voice that sounded oddly like my own: "please Lord, let him live, please Lord, let him live".  He answered that plea, and indeed did let him live. The next 4 days were kind of blur, but they included numerous trips down the freeway, a lot of crying, a lot of hugging, a lot of praying, a lot of conversations that started with "what if..."  and a lot of drive-thru dinners. To say it was an extreme emotional rollercoaster is truly the understatement of the decade. For our family, it was a massive face-plant into a concrete wall. 

By His grace and mercy, God chose to bring Kev back from a potential deadly situation and place him in the care of some brilliant and wonderful cardiac experts. He was released a few days later and he's been home recovering for the last 5 days.

For those regular readers, you already know I once had a crash course in malignant melanoma and became a sort of medical expert on signs, symptoms and treatments, and in this case, it's sort of the same thing. It's what you do for those you love - you consume every word, every definition, every potential side affect of every drug, whether you can pronounce the name of the drug or not. 

I've spent the last several days learning all about good cholesterol, bad cholesterol, stents, blood thinners, beta blockers, symptoms, side affects, cardiac rehab, stress tests, and about a hundred other things I'm not even thinking about right now.

Interestingly enough, one of the most important things I've learned in the last week is just how critically important nutrition is, for those with heart disease.  Good nutrition and a healthy, balanced eating schedule is so important, it ranks right up there with any and all prescription meds and taking them on time every day.

It's no surprise to me and really shouldn't be to anyone else but as it turns out, natural, home cooked meals with fresh veggies and lean meats, poultry and fish,  fresh fruits and good old fashioned oatmeal, beans, nuts and seeds...  is still the very best thing for anyone, but especially those with heart disease.  Fast food & pre-packaged store bought trash? Yeah, both are a recipe for disaster. They always have been, no matter how convenient they are. At the end of the day, if they're contributing (and they are, trust me) to clogged arteries and potential heart attacks... they're not really all that convenient, are they?

Our family has done a fast and hard core 180 on the food issue. We've gutted the pantry, spice cupboard, fridge and freezer and literally going back to the basics. 

Thanks to the recipe section at the American Heart Association,  we're one family that has made the choice to dump the trash and eat clean, and healthy.   I've been posting some of the things we've been making and eating on my FB page here. 

Kev has a long way to go to get back to a genuinely healthy place, but him and I are both committed to seeing him get there, on every level.  Your prayers would most certainly be appreciated in our new journey.