I am a newlywed on a budget, just trying to make healthy and inexpensive meals for my husband and I to enjoy. He eats a lot, so cost is a big factor. Though I work 3 jobs, I manage to find time 6 nights a week to cook a full dinner for us both. I am constantly looking for new recipes that are moderately healthy, taste great, and won't break the bank.

On the side, I also own a brownie business called Gersheybars. My passion and love for cooking started when I was just a small child, baking with my mom and grandmother. The brownie recipe has been passed down through 5 generations and I am thrilled to finally have an outlet to share them with everybody else. Friends and family have helped spread the word and made my business as successful as it is today.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Indonesian Pasta

Yet another fabulous dish from Cooking Light's, "Low-Fat Ways to Stir-Fry." We loved the peanut sauce and spiciness of the dish. I would double the peanut sauce next time, as it was slightly dry, but the flavor was definitely a hit. My recommendation is to double all ingredients from the chicken broth through the cumin.

  • 1/4 cup low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 Tablespoon reduced-fat creamy peanut butter
  • 1 Tablespoon low-sodium soy sauce
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice
  • 1.5 teaspoons minced onion
  • 1 teaspoon seeded, minced serrano chile pepper (I used Sriracha hot sauce instead)
  • 1/8 teaspoon brown sugar ( I omitted this)
  • dash of ground cumin (I used about 1/4 teaspoon)
  • 1/4 pound fresh asparagus spears
  • 2 Tablespoons julienne-sliced sweet red pepper (I used the whole pepper)
  • 3 tablespoons green onion (I used 2 stalks of green onion)
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
  • 2 ounced capellini, uncooked
  • Asparagus spears for garnish

1. Combine first 8 ingredients in a saucepan; bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Set aside; keep warm.

2. Snap off tough ends of asparagus. Remove scales from stalks, if desired. Heat wok at medium-high, then add asparagus and red pepper; stir-fry 3 minutes or until tender. Add green onions; stir-fry 30 seconds. Remove from heat; stir in parsley.

3. Cook pasta according to package directions. Place pasta in a serving bowl. Add peanut sauce and vegetable mixture; toss gently. Serve warm, garnished with additional asparagus spears, if desired. Yield 2 servings.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Beef and Broccoli with Oyster Sauce

I'd made a WW Beef & Broccoli dish in the past, which was close to the "real deal" but seemed like it was missing something. This recipe comes from Cooking Light's "Low-Fat Ways to Stir-Fry" and it's a dead ringer for our favorite takeout restaurant's version of the same dish.

  • 3 tablespoons oyster sauce
  • 1 tablespoon low-sodium soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon dry sherry (I omitted this, and didn't replace it with anything)
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 2 teaspoons sugar (I omitted the sugar entirely)
  • 1 teaspoon cornstarch
  • 1 pound lean flank steak (I used top round)
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1 tablespoon low-sodium soy sauce
  • 2 teaspoons sugar (again, I omitted this)
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1/3 cup diagonally sliced green onions
  • 1 tablespoon minced ginger
  • 6 cups fresh broccoli flowerets (about 1 pound)
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 6 cups cooked rice

1. Combine first 6 ingredients, stirring well; set oyster sauce mixture aside.

2. Trim fat from steak. Slice steak diagonally across grain into thin slices. Combine 1 tablespoon cornstarch, 2 tablespoons water, 1 tablespoon soy sauce, and 2 teaspoons sugar in a medium bowl, stirring well; add steak, stirring to coat. Cover and marinate in refrigerator 15 minutes.

3. Heat 2 teaspoons oil in a wok until hot. Add steak mixture; stir-fry 2 minutes. Remove steak from work; set aside. Reduce heat to medium-high. Add remaining 1 teaspoon oil, green onions and gingerroot to wok; stir-fry 30 seconds. Stir in broccoli and 1/4 cup water, cover and cook 3 minutes.

4. Return steak to wok, and stir in oyster sauce mixture; stir-fry 2 minutes or until thickened. For each serving, spoon 1 cup beef mixture over 1 cup rice. Makes 6 servings.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Lower-Sugar Blueberry Corn Muffins

I'm not normally a Splenda fan, but I had a bag of the Splenda for Baking left over from a special brownie order. After looking at the Splenda website, www.splenda.com, they had a great recipe for blueberry corn muffins. My last batch turned out a bit cakey and I really wanted something softer, so I figured I'd give it a shot. The Splenda recipe on the website uses 3/4 cup Splenda No Calorie Sweetener, but I used 6 Tablespoons of the Splenda Baking mix instead. They turned out perfectly and taste great! This might just be the start to more Splenda recipes in the future...who knows!

If the recipe is prepared using Splenda for Baking, each muffin has 1/3 less sugar than if using regular sugar. If using pure Splenda, each muffin has 2/3 less sugar than the "real deal" version. So while these aren't completely sugar-free, they can be altered easily to make a less-sugar version that tastes just as good.

  • 1.75 cups flour
  • 1/2 cup yellow cornmeal
  • 1.25 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 6 T Splenda for Baking (or 3/4 cup Splenda No Calorie Sweetener)
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1/3 cup egg substitute (I whisked 2 eggs in a small bowl and measured out 1/3 cup. 2 eggs generally measures 1/2 cup, so there isn't much waste here)
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1 cup buttermilk (we are lactose intolerant, so I made faux buttermilk by adding 1 tsp lemon juice to 1 cup Silk soy milk, and letting it curdle for 5 minutes)
  • 1 cup blueberries (fresh or frozen -- no need to thaw if frozen)

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line muffin cups with paper liners.

2. Blend dry ingredients together in a medium mixing bowl. Set aside.

3. Blend butter in a large mixing bowl until light and fluffy. Add egg slowly. Scrape sides and continue to mix until butter forms small lumps. Add vanilla and buttermilk. Mix well. Add dry ingredients in three batches. Mix well and scrape the sides of the bowl after each addition. DO NOT OVERMIX. When the dry ingredients are about 80% mixed into the butter/egg mixture, gently fold the blueberries into the batter. This will help prevent over mixing.

4. Scoop batter into muffin cups, filling cups to the top. I used an ice cream scoop to portion them out so they bake more evenly.
Makes 12 muffins.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Sesame Pork over Couscous

I got bored with some of my standard cookbooks, so a quick trip to the library temporarily fixed that. I picked up the Cooking Light book, "Low-Fat Ways to Stir-Fry." Just from flipping through it, there seem to be quite a few good looking recipes in a variety of ethnic origins (Italian, Asian, Greek, and a few more).

Tonight's recipe was delicious! I marinated the pork for about 3 hours and it was so tender and flavorful. The original recipe calls for shrimp, but due to a food allergy, I had to substitute something else.

  • 1/2 pound pork tenderloin, sliced into strips (original recipe says 1 pound unpeeled medium-size fresh shrimp)
  • 1 cup sliced green onions
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil
  • 1 tsp grated ginger
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 3.5 cups canned no-salt-added chicken broth, divided
  • 1.5 cups couscous, uncooked
  • 2 cups fresh broccoli
  • 1 cup julienne-sliced sweet red pepper
  • 1 cup fresh snow pea pods, trimmed
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 1 teaspoon sesame seeds, toasted

1. If using shrimp, peel and devein. Combine shrimp/pork, green onions, and next 4 ingredients in a bowl. Cover and marinate in refrigerator at least 30 minutes, or up to 3 hours.

2. Bring 3 cups chicken broth to a boil in a medium saucepan; remove from heat. Stir in couscous; cover and let stand 5 minutes. Fluff couscous with a fork; set aside, and keep warm.

3. Coat a wok or large nonstick skillet with cooking spray and heat at medium-high. Add shrimp/pork mixture; stir-fry 4 minutes or until cooked. Remove from wok, and set aside.

4. Add broccoli, sweet red pepper and snow peas to wok; stir-fry 3 minutes at medium-high. Combine cornstarch and remaining 1/2 cup chicken broth; stir well. Add cornstarch mixture to wok; bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Cook 1 minute or until slightly thickened.

5. Stir in shrimp/pork mixture and cook 1 minute or until thoroughly heated. For each serving, spoon 1 cup shrimp/pork mixture over 1 cup couscous and sprinkle with 1/4 teaspoon sesame seeds. Yield 4 servings.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Rustic Blueberry Muffins

These are sort of a mix between a muffin and a scone. The original recipe came from my culinary school instructor (no clue where he got it from), but I've modified it a bit over the years, so I guess you could call it mine...? It works well with cranberries, blueberries or other fruits too. I use fresh when available, but this time of year I had to use frozen berries. No need to thaw first, just dump them in and bake away. I made a batch of these today to eat for breakfast during the week. Mmm....

  • 1 3/4 cups flour
  • 2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 Tablespoons sugar
  • 4 Tablespoons butter, melted
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 1 cup fresh/frozen berries

1. Line muffin pan with cupcake liners or grease pans with butter.

2. Sift the flour, baking powder and salt into a medium bowl. Stir in the sugar.

3. Mix butter, eggs and milk together and pour into flour mixture. Mix gently until ingredients are just barely combined, then add berries.

4. Fill muffin cups 2/3 full and bake in preheated oven at 400 for 20 minutes. Let cool for 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

Sunday Mornin' Flapjacks

This recipe comes from a unique cookbook called, "Retro Breakfast" and is one of several books in the "Retro" series. The specific recipe is called, "Ritzville, Washington's Wheat 'Cakes" and it's probably the most authentic tasting pancake recipe I've tried. Super easy to make and they fluff up really nicely in the pan. We halved the recipe for 2 of us and it was plenty -- made about 6 giant sized pancakes.

  • 2 cups milk
  • 2 egg yolks, beaten
  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 Tablespoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 4 Tablespoons melted butter (not shortening)
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 egg whites, beaten fluffy (I beat them to a medium peak)

In a large bowl, beat together the milk, egg yolks, flour, sugar, salt, butter, and making powder. Beat into a smooth batter. Fold in egg whites. Cook on a lightly greased griddle (I used a nonstick skillet, with plenty of butter on medium high).

A little blurry, but Justin wanted his skills to be shown off. He is the master pancake flipper -- no spatula required.

This is the cookbook I used, and those are my Valentine's Day tropical flowers!

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Chinese Chicken Legs

Yet another wings recipe while on our chicken wings kick. These are saucy and sweet, with a tad bit of spice. They're messy to eat, super tender and exactly how wings should be. Very easy to prepare with minimal effort. The original recipe is from WW Simply Delicious and the only change I made was to use wings instead of drumsticks.

  • 8 scallions, coarsely chopped
  • 1/3 cup prepared barbecue sauce
  • 2 tablespoons reduced sodium soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons oyster sauce
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 2 teaspoons grated peeled fresh ginger
  • 1 teaspoon chili paste or hot pepper sauce
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 2 1/4 pounds chicken wings
  • 2 teaspoons sesame seeds, toasted

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line the bottom of a broiler pan with foil.

2. Combine scallions, bbq sauce, soy sauce, oyster sauce, honey, sugar, ginger, chili paste, and garlic in a large bowl. Add the chicken wings and toss until well coated.

3. Place the chicken on the baking pan. Spoon any remaining sauce over the chicken. Cover loosely with aluminum foil and bake 20 minutes. Remove the foil, and continue baking until the chicken is browned and cooked through and the sauce is thickened, about 20 minutes longer. Sprinkle with the sesame seeds.

Old Bay Wings & Greek Feta Pilaf

For some reason, we've been on a chicken wings kick lately. No idea why, but in the past week, we've tried 3 or 4 different recipes. Tonight, we did Old Bay Wings, but instead of doing them in the oven, I used the slow cooker. MUCH better. Seriously, these were so tender and juicy and delicious. My oven baked ones were good, but these were a lot tastier. I also made a Greek Feta Pilaf (from WW Simply Delicious) to go with them. Not sure what's so Greek about it, other than the Feta cheese and a dash of dill. Either way, it was damn tasty and a really simple meal to prepare.

  • Olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 small red/yellow/orange pepper, seeded and chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 cup long-grain white rice
  • 2 cups fat-free, low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground pepper
  • 1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
  • 2 tablespoons chopped dill
  • 2 teaspoons grated lemon zest

1. Heat the oil in a nonstick saucepan over medium-high heat, then add the onion, bell pepper and garlic. Saute until softened, 305 minutes. Add the rice and saute until coated with oil, about 1 minute. Add the broth, salt and pepper, bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer, covered, until the liquid is absorbed, about 20 minutes. Let stand 5 minutes.

2. Fluff with a fork and stir in the cheese, dill and lemon zest; cover and let stand 5 minutes.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Orange Chicken & Lemon Oregano Potatoes

This was created on the fly, as we were voting tonight and that totally messed up my dinner schedule. The chicken was super easy, just threw a few ingredients into a bag, coated it, and baked it. And the potatoes were just as simple. I'm all about quick and easy this week, as the Valentine's Day holiday has me slammed with brownie orders and I just don't have the patience to cook dinner after all that baking!

  • 2 chicken breasts
  • 1/2 cup bread crumbs
  • zest of 1 orange
  • 2 Tablespoons Parmesan cheese
  • salt & pepper
  • 3 Yukon gold potatoes
  • 1/2 onion, sliced thin
  • 1 Tablespoon oregano
  • 1 Tablespoon lemon juice

1. Place bread crumbs, zest, cheese, salt and pepper in a bag. Add the chicken breast and shake to coat. Place on a broiler pan lined with foil. Bake at 425 for 20-25 minutes until cooked.

2. Slice potatoes into small wedges. Add oil to saute pan and cook on medium high for about 7 minutes, until brown. Add onions, oregano and lemon juice. And some salt/pepper. Turn heat down to medium-low and cover. Cook, stirring frequently, until potatoes are tender. Drizzle with a bit more lemon juice and oregano.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Chinese Velvet Corn Soup & Grilled Cheese

It's been a bit cool in So Cal these days...somewhere in the 50's during the day and even colder at night! Bbrrr... :) So tonight we decided to make the traditional soup and grilled cheese for dinner. But instead of tomato soup and grilled American cheese, we chose Corn Soup and Grilled Pepperjack on Sourdough. Kick it up a notch, if ya will. The soup is from WW "Simply Delicious" and was really good. Very reminiscent of egg drop soup but the added spinach and corn was a really nice touch. The soup takes about 7 minutes to prepare, and grilled cheese cooks at the same time, so this is a hearty and filling dish in under 10 minutes!

  • 2 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth (I just 1 can)
  • 1 teaspoon soy sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 14.5oz can cream-style corn
  • 2 cups torn fresh spinach leaves, or 1/2 (10 oz) box frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry

1. Combine the broth, soy sauce and sesame oil in a medium saucepan; bring just to a boil.

2. Slowly pour in the eggs, stirring constantly with a fork to form shreds of egg. Stir in the corn and spinach. Simmer until heated through, 3-5 minutes.

Meanwhile, put 2 slices of pepperjack between some sourdough, throw it on the George Foreman grill, and by the time the cheese gets all melty, the soup will be ready!

Old Bay Wings

This is quite possibly the easiest dish I've ever made! With only 2 ingredients and no fuss baking method, these are definitely a keeper. Juicy wings, spicy, and simple!

The original recipe came from a few girls on The Nest -- they all make it in a crock pot, but my crock pot isn't large enough, so I cooked them in the oven with a water bath and they came out perfectly. If you use a crock pot, place the wings in there on low for 5 hours. No need to add water or any liquid, just place the seasoned wings in the crock pot and turn it on!

  • 2 pounds chicken wings
  • 1 cup old bay seasoning

1. Place old bay in a large plastic bag. Add the wings, 2-3 at a time, and shake to coat.

2. Place in the crockpot, with no additional liquid, for about 8 hours on low.

Unfried Chicken

In my attempts to eat more healthy, I've been trying a lot of baked chicken dishes instead of pan frying them. This one is made with cornflakes and is supposed to taste like fried chicken. Does it? Not really. But it's still really good! The cornflakes add a really nice crunch to the outside of the chicken and a slight sweetness that's very tasty. The original recipe is from WW "Simply Delicious" and we served it with a side salad.

When we baked it, the bottom of the chicken came out a bit wetter than I'd prefer. Next time, I think I'll bread the chicken in the cornflakes, then put on a cookie sheet over a baking pan and bake that way. This will eliminate the chicken sitting in juices and coming out soggy.

  • 1/4 cup reduced-calorie mayo
  • 1 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 2 tsp grated lemon zest
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 4 drops hot pepper sauce (I added much more, as we prefer spicier food)
  • 2 chicken breasts
  • 3/4 cups cornflake crumbs

1. Preheat the oven to 375. Spray a pyrex baking dish with nonstick spray.

2. Whisk together the mayo, mustard, lemon zest, salt and pepper sauce in a large bowl. Add the chicken, toss to coat. (Use a paper towel to dry the chicken before dipping in the sauce, otherwise it will just slide right off.)

3. Place the cornflakes in a large plastic zip-top bag. Use a rolling pin to roll over the cornflakes until they are crumbly like bread crumbs. Add the chicken, one piece at a time, and shake to coat.

4. Place the chicken in the baking pan. Bake until golden brown and cooked through (do not turn) about 40 minutes.