Decorating my plate one meal at a time

Snack

Spinach Artichoke Dip

Pot luck.  I feel a little bit of dread each time I head to one.   I know that I’ll be faced with a buffet of things I shouldn’t really eat.  Cookies, cake, fat-loaded dips with greasy chips, mayo based pasta salads… all very tasty, but not really fitting my nutritional needs.  I know I should eat a meal before I go and then just have a few snacks from something healthy, like the fruit or veggie tray.  But what should I make to contribute?    Yet again, I turned to Hungry Girl.  Mom and I have several of her books, but the one most useful in this situation is Happy Hour, which is filled with recipes for healthy (low fat/calorie) hors d’oeuvres, dips and adult beverages.

I made her Crazy-Creamy Spinach Artichoke Dip and put it out on the buffet and waited…  I got a pretty big grin on my face when the first person asked “OMG! Who made the dip?!?!”  No one believed that it was “diet” food.   I deviated from the recipe just a tiny bit.  First, I used my old favorite Gourmet Garden garlic in a tube, and then I minced the shallot in my mini food processor but I didn’t follow her direction to saute them, I just mixed them right into the dip.  I also didn’t bake the dip, I simply poured the whole works into a little crock pot and served it up when it got hot.  Super easy.  It tasted fantastic with the pita bread that I sliced into little wedges, or with the tortilla chips that someone else contributed to the buffet.

I’m sorry to say I didn’t get a picture of it, but there is one on her website.

Next time you’re trying to figure out what to take along to a party, keep this in mind, but hold a little back for your breakfast the next day. I made a double batch, so there was just a little left over.  This morning I stirred some into my egg mug.  Fantastic!  Nothing like getting two different meals out of one recipe.

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It had to happen…

A little soy and sriracha helped balance the vinegar flavor.

After going on a new recipe spree and having so many fantastic results, it had to happen: we discovered a recipe we weren’t excited about.  Well, let me clarify that.   We were totally excited to make it, but once it was made and we were eating it, neither one of us was excited about it any more.  It wasn’t *bad*, it just wasn’t as awesome as the other things we had that week.  In case you want to give it a try, check out FoodNetwork for the sweet and sour pork recipe, after all, tastes vary, and you might really like it.  I thought it was just a little too vinegary.  Mom thought it was ok, but “not worth the points”…  in other words, the nutritional values were a bit higher than she was hoping, especially if you serve it over rice.

It turned out pretty enough, I added a little red pepper for color, and served it with brown rice, soy sauce and sriracha (or rooster sauce, as we call it around here).

So this post won’t be a total bust, let me tell you about the super tasty, super easy, decadent treat I found.  Guess where.  That’s right, Pinterest.  I swear, between that and facebook, I’m not sure how I ever manage to peel myself away from the computer.

I didn’t get a photo of it, and to be honest, it’s *not* that much to look at, but it tastes pretty darn good.  The blog author calls it 123 cake, but after sharing it with some friends, I’ve been informed it’s actually 321 cake, which makes sense, keep reading and you’ll see why.

Basically you get two boxes of cake mix. One HAS to be angelfood.  The other can be whatever you want.  You pour both boxes of mix into a storage container (like a gallon Ziploc baggie) and mix them together well.  Then you put 3 tablespoons of the mix into a coffee mug, add 2 tablespoons of water and stir.  Pop it in the microwave for 1 minute (actually, 45 seconds to a minute, depending on your microwave).  That’s it.  Fresh hot cake.  (for those tracking WWP+: my calculations show 3, but another poster on the original recipe page said 4.5, it may depend on which cake mix you use)

So quick and easy and not bad in the stats.  My biggest weakness is sweets, especially cake, so if you’re like me, keep this on hand to stave off those ruthless cravings that just won’t take no for an answer.


Back on the wagon?

I know, I know, it’s been two months since I last posted.  I got swept up in a tidal wave of holiday apathy and just… couldn’t.   I couldn’t care about cooking, or writing, or eating healthy.    I gained a few pounds, but I lost them and more right after the new year… and then I gained a couple back again.  So, it’s time for me to get back on the wagon and start cooking, eating and THINKING healthy again.

To start things off right, Mom and I made a meal plan, a grocery list and a grocery excursion this evening.  After we returned home with our load of mostly produce, we set to chopping and prepping for several meals and snacks.

While I was chopping veggies for tonight’s snack, I went ahead and prepped a few extra so all I need to do is open the fridge and grab.  This usually makes all the difference for me.  If I look in the fridge and see a pile of veggies I would need to prep or a ready-to-grab sugar free pudding cup, I’m probably going to go for the fast and easy sweet chocolatey goodness.   As choices go, that wouldn’t be the worst, but I really should be eating more veggies and less pre-packaged snacks.

I also whipped up a batch of my new favorite dip.  Fast, easy and flavor packed!  The dip is a really simple creation of mine:  1 cup fat free (or low fat) cottage cheese and about 1 table spoon of Two Sisters Gourmet Outrageously Garlic blend and a half teaspoon of Penzey’s Mural of Flavor.  I throw the whole works in my mini food processor and pulse until its smooth-ish.  Cottage cheese will never get completely smooth, so don’t burn out the motor trying.

You could also make this with dried minced onion and garlic or other seasonings, I just used what I have on hand.    This dip is great on raw veggies, baked potatoes and veggie chips or straws.  I usually keep myself to a 1/2 cup portion or less.

So now that I’m back on the healthy-eating wagon, I’m also hoping to catch up with the write-about-your-food wagon.

I’ve been surfing Pinterest, making a list of recipes I want to try and I’ve talked Mom into trying THREE of them this week, plus we’re experimenting with a recipe in her collection, if it turns out particularly tasty, you’ll see it here.

If its a dismal flop, you probably won’t.


Harvest dessert

No need to visit the farmer's market

Canned pumpkin and a pudding cup make this super easy!

I love fall.  Love it.  I love the weather, the clothes, the colors, and most of all, the great things you can find at the local farmer’s market, apple orchard and pumpkin patch.  I adore pumpkin pie and never understood why we only make it once a year.  I would probably eat  pumpkin pie with every meal, if it didn’t mean that I’d have to actually use the Wii Fit that’s sitting in my living room or buy new jeans once a month.
I’ll be honest though, as much as I love pumpkin pie and I love to pretend I’m Betty Crocker, I’ve only made it from scratch twice.  It would have been once, but Mom begged me to make it for Thanksgiving the second time.  It is a lot of work.  A pain in the neck, actually, and you know what?  It doesn’t taste perceptibly different from canned pumpkin.  So use the pumpkins to decorate your table and save yourself from an entire day spent elbow deep in the kitchen sink, just buy the canned pumpkin.
I like to keep a can or two around to add to oatmeal or whip up with a spice cake mix.  I try not to make a whole pie unless I’m taking it somewhere to share it, otherwise, I would eat the whole pie and then we’re back to those new jeans.  After playing around with what I had in my fridge  I came up with this quick and easy dessert that can be enjoyed any time of year.  I frequently eat this without the pudding cup as a satisfying snack, because the high fiber in pumpkin helps me feel full long enough to make it to the next meal.
Here’s what you need:
Canned pumpkin, about 1/2 of a 15 oz can.
1 small apple (smaller than your closed fist) or 1/2 of a medium to large apple.
Sugar or sugar substitute of your choice, about a tablespoon.
Cinnamon or Pie spice to taste (I like a LOT).
1 Sugar Free vanilla pudding cup. (optional)
Cut the apple into small pieces (smaller than your pinkie) and sprinkle with cinnamon or pie spice. Microwave for about 45 seconds.  Stir in pumpkin and sugar/substitute.  Microwave for about another minute. (As with all microwave recipes, your times may vary).
If you like, top the whole works with a pudding cup and another sprinkle of spice to make it pretty.   Grab a spoon and dig in!