Real Food for Real Life

Thursday, January 31, 2013

I love it spicy...

Sweet and Spicy Asian Pork
Whole boneless pork loins were on sale last week for $1.57 a pound, so of course I bought two.  A little home butchery and I have a freezer full of chops, cubes, and a couple of small "roasts,"  minus some that went right into my crockpot.  This dish is hard to beat for those hectic weekdays when there never seems to be enough time to get everything done.

There is no doubting that Ben and I like our food spicy, a love not shared by the children (at least not yet).  If you too are feeding tender palates, make the recipe as given and let those who like it hot drizzle additional siracha over their bowls like we did.

 Sweet and Spicy Asian Pork
2lbs. boneless pork loin, all visible fat removed, cubed
1/2 cup dark (or light) brown sugar
1/2 cup soy sauce
1 heaping T siracha
thumb size piece of ginger, peeled and chopped 
6 cloves garlic, chopped
1 large bok choy, chopped
1 large red bell pepper, diced
8oz. mung bean sprouts

In the bottom of a large crockpot, stir together the brown sugar, soy sauce, siracha, ginger, and garlic until the sugar dissolves.  Add the pork cubes and stir until all the cubes are coated with the sauce.  Cover and cook on high for 4 hours, or low for 6 or 7 hours. 

About 1/2 hour before serving remove the lid and break up the pork cubes a bit with a wooden spoon before stirring in the chopped bok choy and bell pepper and recover.  Just before serving stir in the bean sprouts.  Serve over brown or white rice.

WW PointsPlus Values:  This makes 8 servings with each heaping cup worth 7 points.  A cup of brown rice adds an additional 5 points.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Baked eggs...again...

Tex Mex Baked Eggs I

I seem to be on a real baked eggs kick, having had them every weekend this month.  The Tex Mex versions I have made the last two weeks have been extraordinarily easy to make and very satisfying.  Serve them both with your favorite hot sauce to spice things up a bit and some toast or tortillas to sop up all the goodness.

Tex Mex Baked Eggs I

1 15oz. can chili beans, undrained
4 large eggs
1/2 cup shredded reduced fat cheese (I used Sargento 4 Cheese Mexican)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.   Spray 2 individual casserole dishes with cooking spray.  Spoon one half of the chili beans into each dish. and carefully crack two eggs into each..    Place the dishes on a baking sheet for ease in handling.  Bake until whites are set, about 16 minutes for runny yolks, 19 minutes for soft-cooked yolks or 22 minutes for hard-cooked yolks.  Top each dish with 1/4 cup of the shredded cheese and return to the oven just long enough to melt the cheese.  Makes 2 servings.
WW PointsPlus value: 11 points a serving

Tex Mex Baked Eggs II
Tex Mex Baked Eggs II

1 cup of your favorite salsa, homemade or prepared 
4 large eggs
1/2 cup shredded reduced fat cheese (I used Sargento 4 Cheese Mexican)

The success of this dish is truly dependent on the quality of the salsa you use, so make sure it is really tasty.  Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.   Spray 2 individual casserole dishes with cooking spray.  Spoon 1/2 cup of the salsa into each dish. and carefully crack two eggs into each..    Place the dishes on a baking sheet for ease in handling.  Bake until whites are set, about 16 minutes for runny yolks, 19 minutes for soft-cooked yolks or 22 minutes for hard-cooked yolks.  Top each dish with 1/4 cup of the shredded cheese and return to the oven just long enough to melt the cheese.  Makes 2 servings.

WW PointsPlus value: 6 points a serving

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Another semi-bust...

Lemon Chicken with Broccoli
 A busy weeknight and feeling completely uninspired for dinner, I browsed the Weight Watchers recipes online and hound one for Lemon Broccoli Chicken.  It was easy, I had everything on hand, and it was similar to dishes we eat and enjoy, so I went with it.  It was indeed easy, and it was  similar to other dishes we have enjoyed, but similarity did not equal enjoyment and satisfaction.  The lemon flavor was surprisingly underwhelming, and being made with no butter or parmesan, actually suffered from being TOO low fat.  Stirring a tablespoon of butter into the pan just before serving would have tightened up the sauce and given it the proper "mouth feel," and for only an additional one point per serving.  This dish is so low point that it had room to spare for the indulgence.  Thank goodness for the 4 point glass of wine!

I will probably make this again, but I will add the butter and increase the amount of lemon juice.

Lemon Chicken with Broccoli

On a plate, combine 1 1/2 tablespoons of flour, 1/4 teaspoon of salt and pepper; add chicken and turn to coat.  Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add chicken and cook, turning as needed, until lightly browned and cooked through, about 5 minutes; remove to a plate.  Put 1 cup of broth and garlic in same skillet; bring to a boil over high heat, scrapping up browned bits from bottom of pan with a wooden spoon. Add broccoli; cover and cook 1 minute.   In a small cup, stir together remaining 1/2 cup of broth, 1/2 tablespoon of flour and 1/4 teaspoon of salt; add to skillet and bring to a simmer over low heat.   Cover and cook until broccoli is crisp-tender and sauce is slightly thickened, about 1 1/2 minutes. Stir in chicken and lemon zest; heat through.   Remove skillet from heat and stir in parsley and lemon juice; toss to coat. Yields about 1 cup per serving.

WW PointsPlus Vale:  Lemon Chicken with Broccoli, 4 points, 1 scant cup whole grain spaghetti, 4 points, one glass of white win, 4 points

Monday, January 21, 2013

Another love...

Curry Roasted Eggplant and Chickpeas with Broiled Salmon
I'm not even sure when or where I found this curry recipe, but I bookmarked it and have made it many time since.  Sometimes I add more veg (like it appears I did in the photos), but it is always fabulous, and I ALWAYS lay claim to the leftovers.  This dish is extraordinarily easy to make, but will taste like you toiled away in the kitchen.  And the aroma?  Mouthwatering.

Curry Roasted Eggplant and Chickpeas

1 medium eggplant, diced
1 large red onion, chopped
1 medium red pepper, cored and seeded, chopped
1 15-oz can chickpeas, drained and rinsed (spread them and pat dry for extra crispness)
1/4 c. olive oil
2 t. good quality curry powder
1 t. dark or light brown sugar

Preheat your oven to 400°  Whisk together the curry powder, sugar and oil in a small bowl.  Combine the eggplant, onion, pepper and chickpeas, then pour the curry oil over and carefully toss together to combine.  The eggplant will soak up the oil but don’t add anymore.  Eggplant is a sponge; too much oil and it will be too soggy.  Spread the mixture on a baking sheet and bake, shaking the pan once or twice about halfway through, for 30 minutes. This dish can be eaten immediately, but takes on deeper flavor if allowed to sit overnight in the refrigerator.

WW PointsPlus Value: Makes four servings at 7 points each.  That may seem high for a side dish, but the points come from the heart healthy olive oil and the protein packed chickpeas.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Oh, Ina, how we loved you...

Baked Eggs
 Not only did I sop writing about food during that last semester of my Master's degree, but I had pretty much stopped reading food blogs, too, leaving me to play catch up with some of my favorites.  I was visiting with Mary at One Perfect Bite and found that she had started the new year by participating in the SNAP Challenge.  For the unaware, the SNAP Challenge requires living on the average weekly allowance for food stamp (to use the antiquated terminology) recipients in your state.  I had considered doing this myself, but fearing the wrath of the family, didn't.  I highly suggest reading Mary's posts for the first week of January, she does a beautiful job of illustrating the challenges faced by families receiving assistance.

One of the dishes Mary made for the challenge really caught my eye, her version of  eggs en cocotte, or baked eggs.  We adore Ina Garten's version of baked eggs, and have been making this at least once a month for a few years now.  pMary's version, did not use the cream and much less butter, is much more in keeping with our current approach to eating, so I had to give these a try.  One thing I did keep from Ina's recipe is the garlic and herbs because those are part of the reason we love the dish so much.  These eggs turned out so beautifully that we did not miss the cream and extra butter.  They were actually easier to make as well, an added bonus.

Baked Eggs II

 2  t butter or margarine
4 t parmesan cheese, divided use
4 large eggs
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 t dried thyme, crumbled
1/4 t dried rosemary, crumbled
coarse salt and fresh ground black pepper, to taste
 2 T milk

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.  Mix the parmesan herbs, salt, and pepper in a small bowl.  Spray 2 2 (6oz) ramekins with cooking spray.  Place 1 teaspoon butter and one quarter of the parmesan mixture in the bottom of each cup.  Carefully crack two eggs into each ramekin.  Top each ramekin with 1onequarter of the parmesan mixture and 1 tablespoon milk.  Place ramekins on a baking sheet for ease in handling.  Bake until whites are set, about 16 minutes for runny yolks, 19 minutes for soft-cooked yolks or 22 minutes for hard-cooked yolks.  Remove ramekins from oven and serve immediately.  Makes 2 servings.

WW PointsPlus Value: 10 points for each two egg serving

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Dan Dan redux...

Dan Dan Noodles II
I was really craving Dan Dan Noodles from PF Chang.  I sure wasn't leaving the house on a bitterly cold January day to drive to a neighboring city to get them, and although I have recreated them at home, I was lacking the Chinese egg noodles, bean sprouts, and cucumbers to do so (ditto on the not leaving the house).  But cravings be damned, I was going to have those noodles, I was just going to have to use what I had on hand. And what I did have on hand was two pounds of ground turkey, so I decided to double my effort with the intention of repurposing the leftovers.

For the Chinese egg noodles I subbed whole wheat linguine, a substitute I think I'll keep on purpose in the future.  Instead of the bean sprouts and cucumber I used fresh lime, red bell pepper, cilantro, and jalapeño. Close enough of government work and it turned out damn tasty.

I thought I was going to have to use some peanut butter for the tahini, but ended up being able to scrape some out of the jar and just bumped up the amount of sesame oil.

 I like to get everything prepped and in place before I ever start cooking, or mise en placeI had originally planned to make the sauce with chicken stock, but ended up using pasta water instead.

Dan Dan Noodles II

4 tbs. soy sauce
3 tbs, lime juice
3 tbs. balsamic vinegar
3 tbs. tahini
1 tsp. dark sesame oil
1 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes (or less for tender palates)
3 cloves garlic, minced (1 tbs.)
2 tsp. sugar (or equivalent sugar substitute)
1 lb. extra lean ground turkey
1 bunch scallions, green and white parts, sliced
/2 cup finely diced onion
1/2 cup finely diced carrots
1 cup thinly sliced red bell pepper
pasta water, to thin to desired consistency
1 12-13oz. box of linguine, whole wheat/grain, or high fiber
To serve: chopped peanuts, fresh cilantro leaves, lime wedges, and paper thin slices of jalapeño

Combine the first 8 ingredients in a bowl and set aside. In a large nonstick saute pan, cook the ground  turkey with the onion and carrots until there is no pink left in the meat, breaking up any large clumps.  Pour in the sauce ingredients, bring to a boil, then reduce the heat, add the red bell pepper strips,and simmer while you cook the linguine according to package directions.  As the pasta finishes, ladle some of the pasta water into the turkey to achieve the desired consistency, stir inn the sliced scallions.  Portion the noodles into shallow bowls and spoon the turkey and its liquid over the top.  Serve topped with desired accompaniments.

Dan Dan Tacos

I doubled this recipe and removed half, leaving the liquid behind (better for the noodles to soak up, yum).  Later in the week I reheated this before spooning it into soft tortillas and topping with crumbled queso fresco and one of my favorite additions, a mix of chopped onion and fresh cilantro.  A side of beans and a bit of hot sauce and my Asian fusion tacos were ready for dinner.

 WW PointsPlus Values:
For the Dan Dan Noodles- 1/4 of the cooked turkey mixture is 8 points, a scant cup of the linguine (1/8 of the box) is 4 points, a tablespoon of chopped peanuts is 2 points, with the other toppings being point free.  Total as served- 14 points
For the Dan Dan Tacos- 1/4 of the cooked turkey mixture is 8 points,s 2 Mission brand whole grain and corn blend tortillas are 4 points, and a quarter cup of shredded queso fresco on each taco is a total of 4 points, with the onion and cilantro being point free. Total as served- 16 points

Friday, January 18, 2013

More orange stickers...

 My lunch- a cup of chicken salad with spinach and grape tomatoes,
tastier than it sounds, it just needed more tomatoes.

It is no secret that I love Manager's Special stickers (orange at Kroger and red at Meijer), and it seems that each week I go to Kroger I find at least one rotisserie chicken for $3.59 (and last week I had a coupon for 80 cents off!).  What do I care if they were cooked the previous day.  Each chicken will make several meals, plus homemade chicken stock to boot, so what's not to love.  I used the last one to make a huge bowl of chicken salad that lasted us for nearly a week, and being filled with veggies, it was extra good for us, too.  I usually make chicken salad with reduced fat mayo, but used fat free sour cream here to lighten it up even more.  Not being fans of mayo heavy salads anyway, the switch suited us just fine.

Chicken Salad

1 rotisserie chicken
1/2 medium red onion, small dice
celery, including the leafy parts, 2 cups of small dice
romaine, 1 cup thin shreds (use the crunchy ends)
1 cup fat free sour cream
2 T dijon mustard (or more)
salt to taste and a generous amount of fresh ground black pepper

Take the meat from the chicken, reserving the skin, bones, and yucky bits for your stock pot.  Shred the meat well with your fingers and toss with the veggies.  Mix the mustard into the sour cream before folding into the chicken mixture, being sure to coat everything well (it may seem "drier" than you are used to).  This will make about 8 cups of chicken salad.  This tastes particularly good with tomatoes, whether on the side, or sliced on a sandwich.

WW PointsPlus Value: each cup is 4 points

Thursday, January 17, 2013

A makeover of an old standby...

Tuscan Chicken Pasta
This is one of my go to recipes for weeknight cooking, but I guess a "makeover" really isn't the right word as I didn't change the ingredients or preparation.  What I did do here was approach the cooking in a manner completely foreign to me- I measured everything and knew exactly how many servings I was going to end up with.  My usual method is to cook the whole box of pasta, the whole package of chicken, and generally "eyeball" everything else for taste and appearance.

Tuscan Chicken Pasta II

12oz. boneless, skinless chicken breast, all visible fat removed, cut into small bite sized pieces
1 T. extra virgin olive oil
3 cloves of garlic, minced (1 T)
coarse salt and fresh ground black pepper
1 15oz. can great northern beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 cup pitted Kalamata olives, quartered lengthwise
1/2 cup thinly sliced roasted red bell pepper (from a jar is fine so long as water packed)
5-8oz. baby spinach
8oz. whole grain penne (I used Barilla)
4 T grated parmesan, divided use

In a small bowl, toss the chicken with the olive oil, garlic, and a generous amount of salt and pepper; let sit to marinate while you gather and prepare the remaining ingredients.  When ready to cook, put the pasta on to cook according to package directions.  Preheat a large nonstick skillet over medium heat and once hot, add the marinated chicken. and cook until no longer pink.  Add the beans, olives, and bell peppers to the pan to warm through. 

 Just before draining the pasta, add a few ladlefulls of the pasta water to the chicken and stir together to form a thin "sauce." While the pasta drains, turn off the heat and start folding in handfuls of the spinach.  Add the pasta and any remaining spinach and fold in until well combined.  Top each of four servings with one tablespoon of the grated parmesan.

WW Points Plus Value: 13 points as served

Waste not, want not...

Homemade chicken stock for the freezer.

 I have spent the past two Sundays tearing apart rotisserie chickens to create other dishes, making salads for the weeks ahead, and other general food prep-pery (like my new word :), presenting the perfect opportunity to make the best kind of chicken stock, homemade.  The process is easy, all you need is a bit of time and the freezer space to stow your treasure (I got seven cups this week and six last).

When you are dismantling those chickens you are only after the meat.  How often do you throw away what remains?  Next time throw skin, bones, and all those kind of yucky bits into a deep stock pot.  Throw whatever veggie scraps you have from making other dishes into the pot.  My last two batches have included the trimmings of: carrot, celery, onion, cucumber, bell pepper, broccoli, romaine, spinach, eggplant, and radishes (the more the merrier).  Add a few three finger pinches of coarse salt, a small handful of whole black peppercorns, and a few bay leaves.  Add enough water to cover everything, bring it to a boil, and reduce the temperature to keep it just under a boil for about an hour.

Turn off the heat and leave to sit on the stove until it cools a bit for easier handling.  Strain the broth into a large measuring cup or bowl, pressing on the solids with the back of a wooden spoon to extract all of the goodness.  Now you may throw away what is left.

Stow in the fridge overnight to allow the fat to rise and congeal at the top.  Here you can see it already separating.  The next day skim off the fat and you are left with a nearly fat free, but nonetheless very rich broth.  The amount will vary depending on how much went into the pot.  Use within a few days or portion it out for the freezer.

Who knew being thrifty could be so delicious?

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

I tried to trick the boy...

Deconstructed Brussels Sprouts

Of the five members of this family, all of us like Brussels sprouts, except for the Christopher, that is.  I had just purchased a bag and thought if I "deconstructed" them, as in taking them sown to their leaves, and if I cooked them with bacon, I could convince the boy of their deliciousness.  I spent an hour taking these dang things apart and entertained myself for the duration by watching the Food Network (go figure).  Ben found a Weight Watchers recipe that sounded great so I used that.  These were so tasty that I could easily eat them once a week, an assessment with which Ben agreed.  The boy's verdict?  Still not convinced.  What's a mom to do?

Roasted Pork Tenderloin, Mashed Sweet Potatoes, and Brussels Sprouts

Brussels Sprouts with Bacon and Shallots

In a large nonstick skillet over medium heat, cook bacon, stirring frequently, until crisp, about 5 minutes; remove to paper towels with a slotted spoon to drain.  Remove and discard all but 2 tablespoons bacon fat from skillet; place skillet back over medium heat. Add shallots; cook, stirring often, until almost tender, about 3 minutes.  Add Brussels sprouts, water, salt and pepper to skillet; increase heat to medium-high and cook, tossing frequently, until sprouts are crisp-tender and golden in spots, about 8 minutes. Stir in vinegar and bacon; remove from heat. Yields about 2/3 cup per serving.

WW PointsPlus Value: 6 servings at 4 points each

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

My love affair (with eggplant parm)...

Yet another Eggplant Parmesan

 Single slices, stacks, or layered like lasagna, it matters not, I absolutely adore eggplant parmesan.  I was craving something comforting for dinner on Sunday, but I also wanted dinner to be easy, fast, inexpensive, and relatively diet friendly, a tall order indeed.  By good fortune my grocery purchases for the week had included a big glossy eggplant, a container of fresh mozzarella slices (gotta love those orange Manager's specials stickers), and a package of Kraft Fresh Take that between a sale and a coupon I scored for a whole 50 cents.  Throw in a box of whole grain spaghetti and a jar of good quality pasta sauce and I was set (both bought on sale, of course).

This dish was exactly what I wanted and would be perfect for a weeknight meal.  The fat could be reduced more by using a reduced fat shredded mozzarella, but I wanted the wonderful fresh mozzarella here.  Another idea for lightening the dish would be to roast unbreaded eggplant slices like I did in this layered version.  And if you have never tried it, eggplant parm makes a fantastic sandwich, perfect for those leftovers.

Easy, Cheap, and Diet Friendly Eggplant Parm
1 large eggplant, about 2lbs.
1/4 cup egg whites (from a carton)
1 pkg. Kraft Fresh Take (I used Rosemary and Roasted Garlic)
6oz. fresh mozzarella, sliced
canola cooking spray
pasta sauce to serve, homemade or purchased
whole grain spaghetti to serve (I used Barilla)

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F and lightly spray a baking sheet with cooking spray..  Slice off the eggplant ends before slicing crosswise into 12 slices of equal thickness.  Dip the slices into the egg white before tossing in the bag of Fresh Take to coat.  Lay the slices on the prepared baking sheet and give each a quick 1/2 spritz of the cooking spray.  Bake for 25 minutes.  Remove from the oven and top the 6 largest slices with 2 ounces each of the fresh mozzarella slices.  Top the larger slices with the smaller and you are ready to serve.  6 servings.

WW PointsPlus Value:  Each stack was 7 points, 1/2 cup of sauce was 2 points, and a scant 1 cup (1/8 of the box) of pasta was 4 points.  Serve with a green salad for a complete meal.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Another lost post...

Italian Wedding Soup

Another draft found, but this one was just photos, no recipe.  I had made this soup from a print copy of Food and Wine magazine, but I don't remember the issue ( it was sometime in 2012), so I found the recipe online, or at least one very similar.  Looking the photo it appears that I added wine with the broth, very typical for me and always a welcome addition.  I remember the soup being very, very easy to make, but needing more seasoning, particularly in the meatballs,, so keep that in mind when making this.

Italian Wedding Soup
 Adapted from Food and Wine Magazine

2 quarts homemade chicken stock or low-sodium broth
1 large carrot, finely diced 
1 celery rib, finely diced 
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper 
8 ounces elbow macaroni
1 pound ground pork 
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, plus more for serving 
1/4 cup dry bread crumbs 
One 10 ounce package frozen chopped spinach
One 15-ounce can chickpeas, drained and rinsed

In a large pot, bring the chicken stock to a boil with the carrot and celery.  Season with salt and pepper.  Add the macaroni and cook about 7 minutes.  Meanwhile, in a bowl, knead the pork with the 1/4 cup of cheese, the bread crumbs and 1/2 teaspoon each of salt and pepper. Form the mixture into 1-inch balls.  Drop the balls into the boiling soup and simmer for 5 minutes. Stir in the spinach and chickpeas and simmer until the meatballs are cooked through, 5 minutes longer. Serve, passing extra cheese at the table.

WW PointsPlus Value:  The soup comes in at a whopping 17 points for four servings, or 12 for six.  This could easily be lightened up by using ground turkey or chicken in place of the fatty ground pork.  The amount of pasta could be reduced and switched to a whole grain or high fiber pasta to make the points more worthwhile. 

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Give grilling these a try...

Grilled Baby Golds, Hickory Smoked Tenderloin,
and Iceberg with Bleu Cheese Crumbles

 I was doing some blog maintenance and found this post from last spring that somehow didn't get published.  Grilling weather sill be here sooner than we think and I can't wait to start grilling again.

It is summer...well, not really, officially, but it sure feels like it...and that means grilling time.  Working under the assumption that I can make anything on the grill, I wanted to make "fries."  I took some baby Yukon Golds, and parboiled them before halving and threading on skewers.  Brushed with olive oil and sell seasoned, went on the grill to finish cooking.  Crispy on the outside while soft and creamy on the inside, these were perfect with smoked tenderloin and a crisp ice berg salad.

Grilled Baby Golds

baby Yukon Gold, or other baby potatoes, like fingerlings- however many you would like
olive oil and seasonings of choice, or
vinaigrette dressing of choice

I love cooking like this, without a "recipe," just a technique that allows you to vary the taste and quantity to suit your needs at the time.  Wash however many potatoes you want to make, place in a pot of cold water, bring to a boil, and cook until just becoming tender, 10 minutes or so, depending on size and type.  Drain and allow to cool enough to easily handle the.  Halve the potatoes and thread onto skewers, remembering to allow the skewers to soak at least 1/2 hour if using wooden.  Brush with olive oil and season generously with whatever you like...a combination of coarse salt, fresh ground black pepper, and garlic powder is fail safe...or alternatively, brush the potatoes with a prepared vinaigrette.  Grill until brown and crispy on the outside and tender on the inside.

Ben smoked a small tenderloin roast with hickory.

He thought it looked so good that he went in for a close up shot :)

Friday, January 11, 2013

Well, that was a (semi) bust...

Dark Chocolate Cupcakes, low-fat and sugar-free
Yesterday was a friend's birthday and I had told her last week that I would bring her a sweet treat  to celebrate.  She is diabetic, so limits her sugar, but I thought "no big deal, I'll just substitute Splenda."  That was before Ben and I decided to join Weight Watcher's (WW).  So now I wanted to make something not only sugar-free, but also low-fat.

A search of the recipes that WW has online provided what appeared to be a gem, a dark chocolate cupcake, sans the icing that I don't really like anyway.  You can get the original recipe here.  The only changes I made were to replace the sugar with Splenda, bump up the chocolate to a full 3 ounces, and replace the water with strong coffee to enhance the chocolate flavor.  Since these were traveling to a scout meeting, I made a double batch, topping one with sea salt and the other with powdered sugar.

The verdict?  The response to theses "ultra" diet treats (I mean, really, low-fat AND sugar-free?) SEEMED positive, and the boys certainly seemed to enjoy them, but it is a safe assumption that 11 to 13 year old boys will like it if it is sweet.  Personally,  I view these as a learning lesson in that while they weren't bad, they weren't all that great either.  I should probably add that eating too many sweets has not been an issues for me, so when I do get the urge to indulge, I'll be spending my "points" on the real thing, but for those who like to eat sweets regularly, these may be a great option.

WW PointsPlus value: 4 per cupcake

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Another New Year...

Image courtesy of

Well, hello there.  It has been awhile and we have a lot of catching up to do.  First thing is a big thank you to to my longtime readers for sticking with me, and if you're a new reader, a big thank you for sharing your time with me.

 I have finished my master's degree, graduating December 14 and now face the questions about what I am going to do now.  The quick answer is that I'm not exactly sure.  For now I will be focusing on my home life, my blog (and the sister Facebook page), and The Caring Closet because we have grown so quickly and not yet three years old.

Those of you on Facebook have seen all the albums I have uploaded of my food photos and the updates I have posted there.  I have been mulling a name and layout change for the blog, but have decided to keep it as is for now, just changing some photos and doing away with some sidebar clutter.  I have also redone the recipe index, combining the former two into one that is hopefully easier to use.  Hopefully by tomorrow the switchover will be complete and the blog will have its own domain of

With a new year comes new resolutions.  Although I am already pretty organized, I will be striving for yet more order, and even after obtaining the graduate degree, still need to learn  to manage my time better.  Ben and I have also made the commitment to each other (the only ones who really matter) that we will be changing our eating habits.  Although we have a healthy diet overall, we share a love of food, and even a good thing can be overdone, leaving us both with some weight we'd like to lose.  We have joined Weight Watchers because it restricts nothing, designed for mindful eating.  I won't be boring you here with progress reports or any other such nonsense and this will not become a "diet blog, but I will start including the Points+ value for recipes as I go forward for those interested.

One last update from my absence is that we have realized a long held dream and purchased a second home on Hilton Head Island in South Carolina.  In honor of our new "home," I will be focusing more on Southern regional dishes, especially those of the lowcountry.  But not to worry, I haven't lost my love of Latin American flavors to which this blog owes its name.

Until tomorrow, all my best,
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