Monday, February 22, 2010

Mayo: Lighter Isn't Always Better

I was in the mood for a chicken salad sandwich from the deli today; the kind of sandwich with at least ½ pound of gloppy, mayonnaise-laden chicken salad on top of a huge Kaiser roll. Yum. Too bad delis serve sandwiches that have enough calories to last the whole day! No one needs to be eating that much mayo, ever. I threw together this Chicken Salad over the weekend. I tried substituting half the mayo for plain fat-free yogurt. The result was pretty surprising. It still tasted like creamy chicken salad and you’re eliminating ½ the fat. I’d like to give it a try again with fat-free Greek yogurt. Greek yogurt is even thicker and creamier than regular yogurt and it has a really tangy taste that might work well.

While we’re on the subject of mayo, I’d like to point out that I always use regular mayonnaise. Hellmann’s. Don’t go crazy and try out Miracle Whip. Just don’t. If you read the back of real mayo, you’ll see the usual culprits in the ingredient list; oil, eggs, vinegar, salt, etc. Ever flip over to the back of the light mayo jar? Chemicals, chemicals and more chemicals. The light alternative does cut the overall calories in half but it uses a lot of artificial ingredients as thickeners to counteract the loss of calories. No thanks. Plus I think it tastes very strange, super sweet and gelatinous. Bleh!

I scooped the salad onto a whole wheat Ciabatta roll. You could certainly have it over a bed of lettuce instead. Next time I’ll be sure to cut the chicken and celery a little smaller. I ended up with half the sandwich on my lap from all the filling falling out. Overall a tasty knockoff of the original worth giving a try.

* Get cooking. Let me know what you think. Love it? Hate it? I’m interested in hearing your feedback and suggestions.

Chicken Salad on Foodista

Friday, February 19, 2010

Sweet Cuppin' Cakes

I love cupcakes. They’re tiny little desserts made just for you. You don’t even have to share! (Clearly, I didn’t win any “sharing is caring” awards in Kindergarten). The cupcakes from Crumbs Bakeshop are my favorite. They’re so huge; you can quarter one and have dessert with every meal of the day. This is dangerous territory for a true frosting fan like me. Sometimes I make cupcakes at home, but a typical recipe makes 24 cakes. What’s a family of two supposed to do with 24 cupcakes? I always end up bringing them to work and subjecting my coworkers to a distracting sugar rush to spare myself the temptation. For the record, no one looks cool balancing a Tupperware full of treats on their lap for the hour train ride to NYC. I’ve learned this from experience.

Joe came home from an office party with a recipe for Weight Watchers chocolate muffins to try. Someone brought them to the pot luck and he knew I would like the idea. I made the muffins and although delicious (and only three points if you follow Weight Watchers jargon), they tasted an awful lot like cake to be having for breakfast. Cake?!!! I like cake. Why couldn’t this become a diet cupcake? I was a woman on a mission. A Diet It Up cupcake was in order. I recruited my friend Diana as co-baker. Di just happens to be a dessert aficionado and one of my all-time best buds. She makes the most beautifully decorated cakes and I knew she’d have some clever ideas.

We whipped up the Devil’s Food Cupcake batter in no time. Don’t be turned off by how thick and sticky it is. Although these are denser than a typical cupcake, they’re plenty moist. Instead of adding oil and eggs to a box cake mix, you replace it with a can of pumpkin puree. This saves quite a bit of fat and cholesterol. While the cakes were cooling, we tried out a few toppings. I think we came up with some tasty alternatives to the classic sugar-packed butter cream frosting. The Chocolate Brownie flavor is drizzled with melted dark chocolate and sprinkled with chopped walnuts. The Devil’s Shortcake is topped with whipped cream and fresh berries. Feel free to substitute fat-free cool whip for the cream if you prefer. I stick to the real stuff because my husband has an obnoxious aversion to “tub topping.” I’ve tried to fool him, but that man knows his whipped cream! Di made a strawberry puree for the Strawberry Jam cupcake that worked out perfectly.

Then it was time to taste test…all three. When you’re in need of a chocolate fix, these really do the trick. Just add some girl talk and a few forks.

* Get cooking. Let me know what you think. Love it? Hate it? I’m interested in hearing your feedback and suggestions.

Cupcake on Foodista

Friday, February 12, 2010

Chilly Day Chicken Chili

When you decide you want to start writing a cooking blog, everyone comes out of the woodwork to offer their ideas, recipes and tips. I love it. Keep them coming! My biggest supporter of all time, Mom, contributed this recipe to my healthy eating cause. Anytime she sends me a healthy recipe with the disclaimer, “Your stepdad even liked it,” I take notice. This is the man who would spread bacon grease on his toast without a second thought if that were acceptable behavior. Taste is king in that house! If you can sneak in a healthy recipe that fools him, it’s worth a try.

I was overjoyed that the snow was so heavy in New York this week that I got to take a day off from work. I just don’t understand the appeal of snow. It’s cold and wet. You can’t do much in it except throw yourself down a mountain with two little strips of fiberglass strapped clumsily to your feet. I’m no wimp, it just baffles me. I’m made for sun and sand, not cold and wet. So, a snow day for me means curling up in my jammies and watching movies on the couch all day.

I decided the chilly weather was the perfect setting to try this Cannellini Beany White Chili. That’s a silly little name I gave it because I happen to like when things rhyme. I’ve never had a white chili before and I was a little skeptical. Dicing up chicken breast was a nice texture difference from the typical ground meat. The swiss chard added a little crunch. I was surprised at how much this tasted like chili without the addition of any tomato or chili powder. It was a perfectly satisfying winter meal without being too heavy. I liked topping it with sour cream. Basically because I’m Hungarian and we like our sour cream! You could omit it to save the calories if you like. Interesting little factoid, Swiss Chard contains a ton of vitamins including Vitamin A and K. It also pumps up the fiber in this dish which is essential for feeling full while dropping a few pesky pounds. Thumbs up Mom!

* Get cooking. Let me know what you think. Love it? Hate it? I’m interested in hearing your feedback and suggestions.

Chicken Chili on Foodista

Joe’s Mini Pizza Project

Anyone who knows my husband Joe would agree that he’s an avid hater of many stereotypical Italian traits. You won’t catch him hitting the club in an Ed Hardy t-shirt with his hair done up in a fierce blowout or driving a red Camaro around town with the word “Jiggy” stenciled on the back windshield. However, his Italian roots do make an appearance by way of an intense pizza obsession. If I let Joe have King Umberto’s cater pizza to our wedding, he would have gone for it. Lucky for those in attendance, he was not in charge of the menu!

We’ve been trying different pizza recipes at home, but as you know, pizza is not exactly an ideal option for the healthy eater. It’s loaded with carbs and fat. When there’s a steaming hot pie in front of you with melty cheese and the kind of crispy crust that cracks when you fold it, you’re not going to have just one slice. I think Italians are genetically predisposed to fitting in at least three slices before calling it quits. So, although I’m writing the blog entry, Joe made this pizza. My mom got me a subscription to the Food Network Magazine (that I read on the sneak since I work for a competitor…shhh) and we pieced together a few recipes from the latest issue to create the Sausage and Broccoli Rabe Pizzettes.

The goal here was to lighten up the dish with whole wheat dough and part-skim cheese, but also to focus on portion control. By cutting the ball of dough into four and making pizzettes, you aren’t tempted to over indulge. Plus, pizzette is just a fun word to say. It sounds like you’re eating something much fancier than a slice of pizza. By using bold flavors like sausage and broccoli rabe, you don’t need much of it. There’s only half an Italian sausage on each individual pie. You could even use turkey sausage if you wanted to lighten it up further. If it’s possible to improve on an Italian classic, this might just do it. Good job Joe.

* Get cooking. Let me know what you think. Love it? Hate it? I’m interested in hearing your feedback and suggestions.

Pizza on Foodista

Monday, February 1, 2010

The Great Mac & Cheese Caper

A few weeks ago on a Friday night I was eating dinner at a local BBQ joint with some friends. As we’re chowing down on ribs and pulled pork, I spotted a big bowl of macaroni and cheese on my friend’s plate. Trying to abide by the Diet It Up lifestyle, I opted for a side of corn on the cob instead of the ooey, gooey macaroni. But, that mac & cheese looked damn good! Fearing her dinner would soon become a victim of my wandering fork, my friend challenged me to come up with a mac & cheese recipe that won’t leave us girls (or guys) feeling like we just ate a pound of dairy. A challenge? When do I ever shy away from a culinary adventure? Little did my cheese-addicted friend know that she would soon be recruited to come over on a Sunday afternoon to act as honorary taste-tester. This one’s for you, Cyn.

My Hearty Mac & Cheese is adapted from an Ellie Krieger recipe. I made a few of my own tweaks to bump up the flavor. I’ll tell you how the recipe tastes before scaring you off with the unexpected culprit in this diet mac & cheese caper. The macaroni is rich and creamy and the breadcrumb topping adds a little crunch. It’s cheesy and delicious. What makes this a Diet It Up entrĂ©e, you ask? The base for the cheese sauce is made with frozen pureed winter squash. Don’t walk away! There’s no reason to be afraid! It doesn’t taste like squash at all. The cheese is still the shining star of the recipe. I’ll admit, if you served this to me and pitched it as "the greatest mac & cheese you’ll ever have in your life" I might argue with you. But, it certainly doesn’t taste diety. This is a lighter alternative to classic comfort food fare. Some people live their lives by the credo, "everything’s better with bacon" but I’m going with the slogan, "everything’s better with CHEESE." Enjoy!

Get cooking. Let me know what you think. Love it? Hate it? I’m interested in hearing your feedback and suggestions.

Baked Macaroni and Cheese on Foodista

Salad: Redux

Salad in the winter? Bleh. It’s entirely too frigid outside to want to crunch on a plate of lettuce. I wanted to come up with a salad-like dish that will keep me feeling full in the winter. Nothing undoes the hard work of eating a healthy diet quicker than a growling tummy. As soon as I feel hungry, I’m reaching for a bag of M&Ms quicker than you can say “melts in your mouth, but not in your hand.” Not anymore!

I may be using the term “salad” rather loosely, but this Mediterranean Barley Salad is one of the first recipes I completely made up with my own dietary concerns in mind. I did some research on whole grains and found that barley has some interesting health benefits. Studies have shown that barley contains beta-glucan soluble fiber that can slow glucose absorption and control blood sugar levels. It’s a smart choice for diabetics and pre-diabetics alike. The boost in fiber is also what keeps you feeling full and satisfied. That should appeal to anyone who’s trying to reduce their overall caloric intake. Better yet, it tastes good! There’s no need to snatch up those M&Ms by the handful!

I’ve used barley as the base for this dish along with nutrient-packed veggies and lean protein. I suggest serving the salad at room temperature. I keep the leftovers in the fridge and nuke a serving for 30 seconds or so to take the chill off.

Get cooking. Let me know what you think. Love it? Hate it? I’m interested in hearing your feedback and suggestions.

Barley on Foodista