Real Food for Real Life

Monday, August 19, 2013

Out of nothing...

Caramel Peanut Butter Pie

Here I am back in Ohio after my wonderful summer down south.  While the time away is heavenly, there is sooo much to catch up on when I get home, including, apparently, restocking all the kitchen staples.  We were going to a friend's house on Saturday night and I wanted to take a dessert (per the not so subtle hint delivered my the host), and since I was making dessert I wanted something rich and decadent. 

 Back story here-   I've been on a "diet break" after losing 65 pounds and maintaining it for 2 months.  As the "diet" starts again today for the last 35 pounds, I wanted something really, really naughty.

But, although I wanted this naughty decadence, I did not want to go to the grocery.  I knew I had a pie crust in the freeze, so a pie it was going to be.  My first thought was Key Lime, but alas, no fresh limes, nor even enough bottled lime juice for this.  This got me eying the nearly full bottle of lemon juice in the fridge, so I decided to sub the lemon juice into my standby recipe.  This led to the pantry where I found only one can of sweetened condensed milk, not the necessary two.  Darn!  Now what? 

I did find two cans of dulce de leche, a caramelized sweetened condensed milk, and I remembered making something that had combined the two types.  I couldn't find anything in my recipe directory, but that was because it was in my "yet to be blogged" folder ( I really, really need to get that caught up, too).  The recipe in question was for a chocolate and peanut butter fudge...


But I had no chocolate in the house, grrr!  I decided then to use both cans of dulch de leche to make the custard base and mix peanut butter into that to create a caramel peanut butter pie.  I went to grab the peanut butter from the pantry, because everyone has peanut butter in their pantry (right?), and all I found was a jar that had granola mixed into it.  What the heck?  But the decision had been made, so that was it, granola and all.  The granola floated to the top of the custard, but that was hidden by whipped topping, and with the addition of chopped peanuts on top, wasn't even noticed.
After all that, the pie turned out fantastically, with the host finding it "to die for" and having two slices(!!).  This pie is very sweet and rich, so I would strongly smaller slices than the eight I cut this in to (I could only eat half).

Caramel Peanut Butter Pie

1 prepared pie crust
2 14oz cans dulch de leche
2 eggs
1/2 cup peanut butter
Whipped cream/topping and chopped peanuts, to serve

Combine key dulce de leche, peanut butter, and eggs in a bowl and whisk until the ingredients are well blended.  Pour into the pie crust and bake at 375 degrees for 40-45 minutes, or until just barely set.  Allow to cool, serve with whipped cream or topping (I used Cool Whip Lite, also found in the freezer) and chopped peanuts (I used unsalted dry roasted, but I think salted ones would have been very nice).
See the granola on top?

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Just not feeling it...

Look at those lonely oranges and apples left behind after all the other fruit has been devoured.  I've added more fresh fruit to my diet and thought it would be a good idea to have some less perishable fruit around for the days when I had eaten all the more perishable peaches and strawberries.  The idea behind these less perishables was to keep from ever resorting to canned fruit again; my readers on Facebook may remember my lament about the yuckiness of canned peaches.  But despite the good intentions, I just wasn't enjoying these old standbys, leaving them to languish in the fruit bowl.

Well, even the less perishables will one day shrivel up in sad defeat, so after waiting in the bowl for a month, I had to do something with this fruit (I mean other than picking it up and eating it as is).  I have also been eating a ton of salads, so salads they became, the oranges with red onion and the apples slivered up and added to Cobb salad, the tart sweet apple a perfect foil for the bleu cheese.

Here I served the orange and red onion salad over a bed of romaine and sprinkled on some fat free feta.  This was so good I may buy oranges just to make this.  What follows isn't a recipe so much as a guide; adjust according to what you have on hand and the quantities you like.  That pink beverage in the corner?  Raspberry green tea.  If you haven't tried it, you should.  I've been drinking a half gallon a day of this stuff (unsweetened, of course).

Orange and Red Onion Salad

oranges, peeled and cut to whatever size you prefer
red onion, slivered
extra virgin olive oil
red wine vinegar
fresh ground black pepper

Toss the oranges and onion slivers in a bowl with a good drizzle of the olive oil, a splash of the vinegar, and a very generous grinding of the pepper.  This salad will keep for several days in the fridge for a few days, making it nice to have around for easy meals.  This was fantastic with the feta and I'll be trying it with sliced avocado next.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Changin' it up and finding a very pleasant surprise...

Plain Cheesecake Minis with Fresh Raspberries
Bake in May I had made some Chocolate Raspberry Cheesecake Minis for National teacher's appreciation day.  These low fat, low sugar treats were delicious and well worth the 5 Wight Watchers PointPlus that they tallied in at.  I mentioned that cutting the fat and sugar yet more could bring them down to 3 points.  For Mother's Day (yes, I made my own desert) I made the minis again, using all fat free cream cheese and subbing ginger snaps for the chocolate wafer cookies and stevia for the splenda-sugar blend.  These were delicious topped with fresh raspberries and I don't think the friend I had over for coffee later in the week even noticed they were "diet friendly."  In fact, she asked for a second!

Fast forward a month and I asked Ben what he wanted as his Father's Day desert.  Without much thought he declared he wanted a key lime cheesecake.  If you search the web for recipes, key lime cheesecake seems to involve separate layers of lime custard and cheesecake, not exactly what I had in mind.  Remembering my success the previous month with the super friendly cheesecake minis, I decided that I would take those and infuse them with lime flavor through the use of fresh juice and zest.

The verdict?  Another home run! The lime taste was very present, without overpowering the cheesecake.  It is not visible in any of the photos, but the lime zest added pretty little green flecks to the cheesecake.  I was afraid that I would need additional sweetener with the use of the lime juice, but any loss in sweetness was corrected by the bit of fat free Cool Whip, so perfection was achieved.

Key Lime Cheesecake Minis
makes 12 cheesecake minis

12 vanilla wafer cookies 
2 8oz pkgs. fat free cream cheese, softened
stevia equivalent to 1/2 cup sugar (if using packets, 12)
large pinch of salt
zest and juice of 3 limes
2 large eggs
12 tablespoons fat free Cool Whip

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Cream the stevis, salt, lime zest and cream cheese with a mixer until well blended and fluffy.  Introduce the eggs one at a time and mix until well incorporated; add the lime juice and stir to incorporate.  Line a (1/2 cup-12 capacity or two 6 capacity) muffin tin with foil  cupcake liners.  Place a vanilla wafer cookie into the bottom of each cup.
Naked (zested) limes ready to juice.
Limes after juicing.  Make sure you get it all and don't worry about a bit of pulp.
Divide the cheesecake batter evenly among the liners.  Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until almost set- they will still be a bit jiggly, but will firm when chilled. Remove from the oven and let cool at least a half hour so they are no longer hot to the touch and then place in the fridge until completely chilled.  Once chilled, top beach mini with a tablespoon of the Cool Whip, spreading carefully to cover the surface.   Refrigerate until ready to serve.  I garnished these with very thin lime slice quarters, but thin curls of lime zest use a vegetable peeler) would have been very pretty,
So, so good...
 WW PointsPlus

I was very pleased to find that even with the addition of the Cool Whip and lime juice, that these tallied in even LOWER than the plain minis, ay only 2 points each.  I think we will be having these again (and again).   The 'Nilla wafer cookies are evidently much friendlier than chocolate wafers or gingersnaps.  Who knew?

Sunday, June 16, 2013

A feast for a father...

What did you do for Father's Day?  Ben is actually driving back to Ohio today so we had an early celebration yesterday.  I am sharing dinner photos from the evening spent celebrating the love of my life (and pretty damn fine dad).  Here's wishing everyone and enjoyable rest of the day...

The first course was a wedge salad with bleu cheese dressing and bleu cheese crumbles, perfect for the steak to follow.
The main course was grilled beef tenderloin, grilled new potatoes, and grilled (in the husk) corn on the cob.  Ben gave the grill a workout for this dinner that I made him.  I did butcher the whole loin myself with five more meals waiting in the freezer.  The potatoes were parboiled, tossed in a bit of olive oil and coated in Montreal style seasoning.  This seasoning is good on everything, and I do mean everything.
Ben wanted key lime cheesecake so dessert was a key lime cheesecake mini.  This turned out to be a fantastic combination of flavors.  The recipe will follow in the next post.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Chicago by way of Hilton Head...

Chicago Dog and Simple Slaw
We were planning on grilling some chicken sausages and when I found beautiful poppy seed hot dog buns at the Bi-Lo bakery I knew exactly how we were having them.  We are big fans of the Chicago style hot dogs so we thought we'd do a fresh and lighter version, using the chicken sausage instead of a hot dog, sweet Vidalia onion because it is summer and we are in the south, and fresh jalapeño slices instead of the pickled sport peppers.  On the side we had a simple slaw of sliced green cabbage, scallions, and tiny sweet peppers marinated in seasoned rice vinegar.  Super simple, but so super scrumptious. 
Ben's Plate
 Chicago Dog, Hilton Head Style

fresh poppy seed hot dog buns from a bakery
chicken sausages, we used Johnsonville 3 cheese Italian
spicy brown mustard
Vidalia onion, sliced in thin half moons
summer tomato, sliced in thin half moons
fresh jalapeño, sliced into thin rounds, keep the seeds
celery salt

Grill the sausages.  Slice the rolls and spread each side with the spicy brown mustard.  Layer one side with tomato and season generously with the celery salt.  Layer the other side with onion and jalapeño slices.  Insert grilled sausage.  Eat.  Enjoy.
Oozy cheese yum...
WW PointsPlus Breakdown

The sausage will be 4 or 5 points, depending on the brand.  Unless it is a huge bun, the hot dog bun will generally b 4 points.  The condiments are free. as was the slaw.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

When in the south...


Baked Eggs, à la South Carolina
I've been back in South Carolina for a week know and loving every minute of it.  After a morning of exploring a local park, I wanted something easy, but still substantial, for lunch.  Spying some leftover collard greens in the fridge, I remembered the spinach baked eggs Ben had made me for Mother's Day and I thought, "why not?".  I popped the dish in the oven before popping myself into the shower, emerging to find lunch done.  This was so damn good that I called Ben to make him jealous of hat I was having for lunch, but with the promise to make it for him when he joins me next week.


Baked Eggs, à la South Carolina

For each serving:
1 heaping cup of your favorite leftover collard greens, preferably with lots of ham bits
1 or 2 eggs
coarse salt and fresh ground black pepper, to taste

Preheat an oven to 400°F. Lightly spritz oven-safe dishes or ramekins with cooking spray.  Place a heaping cup of prepared collard greens into each of the oven-safe dishes, making a well or two in the center of each.  Break an egg into each well and season with salt and pepper.  Place the ramekins on one or two rimmed baking sheets and bake until the whites are set and the yolks are firm around the edges but still soft in the center, about 17 minutes or to your liking. Serve immediately. 

Serve this with a whole grain bread or English muffin and some hot sauce.  Texas Pete is very popular here.

WW PointsPlus:
2 points per egg, but the greens will depend upon how they were prepared.  Mine, made with lean ham and defatted ham broth, are 2 points for a heaping cup.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Best Friends and Tequila, part 3...

Chocolate Molten Cake
I knew I wanted to indulge on Saturday night, albeit reasonably, so I was good all week, saved my points. and was it ever worth it :)  We had our Skinny Ritas, and Creamy Guacamole with baked tortilla chips, hummus with baby carrots and whole grain crackers, and sweet and spicy wasabi peanuts.

 The final indulgence for the evening was a chocolate molten cake...think gooey brownie and you know what I'm talking about.  I have been wanting to make something like this for a long time, but for some reason thought it would be difficult or time consuming.  Then I found Mark Bittman's  article and video in the NYT and knew the time had come.  (As a side note_ I love Bittman and his straight forward approach to cooking).

This recipe requires only five ingredients and is incredibly easy to make.  Pay close attention to the baking and don't do as I did- at seven minutes it didn't look done enough so I gave it the nine.  The interior was still very soft, but not "molten" as had been my desire.  That aside, this cake was deliciously sinful and worth the points hit I took.  I will be making this again for the family, but may cut the amount of sugar a bit to get more of the dark chocolate bitterness that we (okay. I mean me) love so much.

Molten Chocolate Cake
Makes 4 individual cakes

1/2 cup unsalted butter, plus more for buttering the molds
4 ounces dark chocolate chunks
4 large eggs
1/4 cup sugar (or equivalent substitute)
2 teaspoons flour, plus more for dusting the molds

Put the butter in a medium bowl and melt it in the microwave. Add the chocolate to the hot butter and stir until melted.Crack 2 eggs into a bowl, and add 2 more yolks (reserve the extra whites for another use).  Add the sugar, and beat or whisk until light and thick, about 1 minute.  Add egg mixture and 2 teaspoons flour to the melted chocolate; beat until combined.

Butter and lightly flour four 4-ounce molds or ramekins (make sure not to miss any spots, or the cakes will stick). Tap out the excess flour.  Divide the batter among the molds. (At this point you can refrigerate them for up to 3 hours; just bring them back to room temperature before baking.)

When you’re ready to bake, heat the oven to 450 degrees F.  Put the molds on a rimmed baking sheet and bake until the cakes have puffed up a bit, the tops are barely set and the cakes still jiggle slightly when shaken, 7 to 9 minutes (better underbaked than overbaked).  Let sit for 1 minute,  Put a plate on top of the ramekin and (with a potholder to protect your hand) carefully invert the cake onto the plate.  Let it sit for 10 seconds, then lift up the ramekin.  Serve immediately, with ice cream, sorbet, whipped cream, or just a simple dusting of powdered sugar.

WW PontsPlus - Each cake is 11 points.  Using stevia instead of sugar would bring it down to 10 points.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Best Friends and Tequila, part 2...

Creamy Guacamole
This guacamole recipe I made both the husband the best friend try without knowing what was in it.  It is creamy, delicious, diet friendly, and it DOESN'T TURN BROWN like most guacamole.  The secret?  Cottage cheese.  Yes, cottage cheese.

I found this recipe in an article about 25 Uses for Cottage Cheese.  Fat free cottage cheese has become a recent favorite, so I had to read this article (and bookmarked four different recipes from it).  I have made this recipe three times since, the last time adding a second jalapeño, making it perfect for Ben and I.  I am also going to try this thinned out as a salad dressing, my version of Green Goddess.

I've adapted the recipe a bit (but of course), because who really uses a tablespoon of chopped scallion and 3/4 teaspoon of jajapeño?  Use the whole thing and actually be able to taste it.  You can find the original recipe here.

Creamy Guacamole with Cottage Cheese
Makes about 1 1/2 cups

1 ripe avocado
2/3 cup fat free cottage cheese 
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 scallion
1 jalapeño, stemmed and seeded, more or less as desired
1/4 cup fresh cilantro leaves
2 cloves garlic
coarse salt and fresh ground black pepper, to taste

Put all the ingredients in a food processor and puree until smooth.  Makes 1 1/2cups.

WW PointsPlus Breakdown - Each quarter cup is 2 points

This guacamole was delicious spread on whole wheat toast with salt and peppered tomato slices, something I usually do with hummus.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Best friends and tequila...

The Skinny Rita
Girl's nights are great.  Is there a better way to spend an evening than with a girlfriend (or more), sipping adult beverages, nibbling on tasty bites, and just talking?  It is hard to beat.  I spent Saturday evening, and late into the night (sorry to keep her so late Mr. M), with one of the best friends a girl could ask for, and over the next few posts I'll be sharing some of our treats from the night.

If you know me at all, you know that I much prefer my adult beverages on the dry side, and I find that premade cocktail mixes are entirely too sweet.  I've written before about creating the perfect margarita, but when I went to make one last week I found that I was out of triple sec.  This actually ended up being a good thing because it led to the "Skinny Rita," a margarita that could not be lower in calories and still contain the all important tequila.  Please don't turn your nose up at the use of bottled lime juice.  I don't know about you, but I don't want to squeeze enough limes to get the juice necessary for multiple cocktails, and I assure you, it tastes better than any mix on the market.  And for the calories?  The juice adds minimal calories, so you are really only getting those from the tequila.  Give it a try and let me know what you think.

Skinny Rita
Makes 1

1 1/2 ounces silver tequila
1 1/2 ounces lime juice
lime flavored sparkling water, calorie free sweetened
salt and lime wedges, as desired

 Pour the tequila and lime juice over ice in a salt rimmed glass (optional), with a lime wedge.  Top off the glass with the desired amount of sparkling water, just give it a twirl with your finger in the glass.

WW PointsPlus Breakdown - Each cocktail is 5 points

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Was that ever good!!

Baked Eggs Florentine
Happy Mother's Day to all the beautiful mothers out there.  I told Ben this morning I had dreamt that he and Christopher had hidden some flowers for me.  His answer was that they had hidden them all over the yard in the flower beds.  Oh well, so much for the not so subtle hint.  What I did get this morning was a most delicious baked egg dish from skinnytaste that I had posted to his Facebook wall earlier this week.  Sometimes you can't be subtle, you just have to show them what you want :) 

Ben found this dish easy to make, but if you like your eggs runny like he does, you will want to decrease the baking time a bit.  This recipe is a definite keeper and would make for a great dinner, too.  The next time we have it we are adding a bit of minced garlic and red pepper flake to the spinach, and sprinkling the cheese on top rather than mixing it in (it did get a bit lost).  The addition of a tomato slice or two under the spinach would be fantastic, especially once summer tomatoes are here.  Come on summer!

Baked Eggs Florentine 

2 tsp olive oil
1 large shallot, diced
1 1/2 lb baby spinach, large stems removed
4 large eggs (or more)
coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
2 tbsp shredded Asagio or Parmesan cheese
cooking spray

Preheat an oven to 400°F. Lightly spritz four oven-safe dishes or ramekins with cooking spray.  Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-low heat, add oil, shallots and cook 2-3 minutes.  Add spinach, salt and pepper and cook until the spinach wilts, about 2-3 minutes.  Mix in cheese and remove from heat.
Divide the wilted spinach among the oven-safe dishes, making a well or two in the center of each.  Break an egg into each well and season with salt and pepper.  Place the ramekins on one or two rimmed baking sheets and bake until the whites are set and the yolks are firm around the edges but still soft in the center, about 17 minutes or to your liking. Serve immediately.  These were perfect with a toasted light whole grain English muffin on the side.

WW PointsPlus 
 One quarter of the spinach with one eggs is 4 points, two eggs are 6 points.  A light whole grain English muffin is 2 points.

All done!!






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