Tag Archives: cheese

Quick Eggs Benedict (or Florentine)

Friends, the world has completely changed since my last post. I’ve been trying to navigate this new temporary normal with my family as I know you are with yours. My daughter has been using my laptop most days for school. We just got a loaner from the school for her, so I might be able to get on here more frequently. But the craziness in this world is hard right now. The most stressful part of my week is menu planning and grocery shopping. It’s tough. I almost hesitate to share recipes right now since I know finding ingredients can be hard. I will do my best to provide timely content as much as possible right now. If you have any questions or issues I can help with, please reach out to me. I’d love to help if I can!

With all this time at home and everything topsy turvy, it is important to find things to celebrate. Small victories, random holidays, you name it. This Thursday is Eggs Benedict Day. Random? Sure. But why not? For once we have time to do these things.

Today’s recipe is a pseudo benedict. It should technically be called florentine since I included spinach. And it uses a make shift hollandaise sauce because 1) it is faster and 2) I don’t actually love traditional hollandaise. Hope this makes your week a little brighter!

Quick Eggs Benedict (Serves 1)

Quick Eggs Benedict

1 whole wheat English muffin or 1 slice of whole wheat bread
1-2 eggs
1 tablespoon skim milk
1 cup spinach
1 oz slice of ham
½ tomato, sliced
¼ cup shredded cheese or 1 slice of cheese
1 tbsp light mayo
½ teaspoon dijon mustard
dash lemon juice

1. Toast muffin or bread.
2. In a small skiller over medium heat, heat ham. Cut in half and place half on each half of muffin. Top with cheese.
3. In same skillet, saute spinach until wilted. Place on top of cheese. Place tomato slices on top of spinach.
4. Whisk together egg and milk. In same skillet, scramble egg until set. Place on top of spinach.
5. In a small bowl whisk together mayo, mustard, and just enough lemon juice to make it almost thin enough to pour. Drizzle sauce over eggs.

Recipe notes: The recipe has instructions for scrambling the egg. This is easier for splitting 1 egg over 2 halves of an English muffin. However, as pictured, you could also go for a more traditional poached egg. Alton Brown explains this process well here.

Nutritional information:

Calories: 396
Protein: 23 g
Fat: 20 g
Saturated fat: 8 g
Cholesterol: 221 mg
Carbohydrates: 34 g
Fiber: 6 g
Sodium: 804 mg

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Pre-shredded Cheese – yes or no

I recently made a recipe that said the sauce would be creamier if using self-shredded cheese versus pre-shredded cheese bought at the store. I’ve often heard people say they don’t like the pre-shredded cheese. I’ll admit I’ve gone in phases of which I buy. So is there really a difference?

The answer is yes. Pre-shredded cheese is coated with anti-clumping agents, such as starch and/or cellulose, and often also with anti-molding agents. These make them last longer and not melt together into a large clump in the bag. But it can also mean they won’t melt together as well when putting them in a sauce or on a dish.

So what should you buy? That is a matter of personal preference. None of these additives change the nutrition to a level that matters. Personally, I buy big bags of pre-shredded mozzarella that I store in the freezer. Then I’m always ready for pizza or pasta, which are “back-up” meals for me. And I find mozzarella a pain to shred. I buy block cheese of other cheeses for cost and varied utility.

Happy eating!

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Cheesy Vegetable Chowder

I hope you’ve had a great 2016. Every year has its ups and downs. But hopefully the ups were high enough to offset the downs. I wish you all a Happy New Year this weekend.

One quick recipe to end the year – vegetable chowder. Hopefully it will be helpful in clearing out your fridge of any remaining holiday foods. And keeping you warm, as I see the forecast for many early next week is rather cold.

I’ve been tweaking this recipe for awhile, and I’ve made most of my batches with leftovers from holiday veggie trays, cheese trays, etc. It is great for just cleaning out the fridge and pantry, which is great any time of year. Enjoy!

Cheesy Vegetable Chowder (Serves about 8)

Cheesy Vegetable Chowder

4 cups low sodium vegetable (or chicken) stock
4 cups vegetables, chopped (broccoli, carrots, celery, cauliflower, zucchini, etc)
1-2 cups small diced potatoes
2 tablespoons no salt added butter
1 small onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
¼ cup flour
2 cups milk (preferably skim)
¼ teaspoon black pepper
¼ teaspoon fresh thyme (optional)
2 cups shredded cheese (something more flavorful than mozzarella)

1. Heat stock to a boil in a large stockpot. Add potatoes and other long cooking vegetables (carrots, celery). Add other vegetables sporadically so they all finish cooking about the same time (total time, 15ish minutes).

2. When the vegetables are almost done, heat butter in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Add onion and garlic and saute for about 3 minutes, until translucent. Add in flour. Stir for 1 minute. Add in milk, pepper, and thyme, stirring frequently. Cook for a couple minutes, until beginning to thicken.

3. Add milk mixture to vegetable pot. Cook until desired consistency (about 5 minutes or so). Remove from heat and stir in cheese until melted throughout.

Nutritional Information (Amount per serving):

Calories: 236
Protein: 13 g
Fat: 12 g
Saturated fat: 8 g
Cholesterol: 36 mg
Carbohydrates: 20 g
Fiber: 2 g
Sodium: 491 mg

Recipe Notes: Sorry the recipe is a bit vague in places. It really depends on what vegetables you have, how big you cut them, and how crunchy/soft you like your veggies in the soup. If you have leftover cheese slices from a cheese tray, just crumble them up or dice them up small. They’ll melt faster that way than in slices.

Source: adapted from my mom’s broccoli cheese soup recipe

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Oven Baked Tacos

The holiday season is upon us. We are all very busy and stressed. Easy dinners are the order of the day, yes? These oven baked tacos are a win on that score. They can be put on the table in about 30 minutes and are delicious. And there isn’t a big mess afterwards. I hope these help ease a little of the December stress in your life.

Oven Baked Tacos (Makes 12 tacos)

Oven Baked Tacos

12 hard shell taco shells
½ tablespoon canola oil
1 lb lean ground beef or turkey
1 medium onion, diced
1 bell pepper, diced
½ jalapeno, seeds and membranes removed if desired, diced small
2 cloves garlic minced
1 tomato, diced
½ cup salsa
2 tablespoons taco seasoning
2 tablespoons water
½ cup shredded cheese (your preference)
Shredded lettuce
Chopped green onion
Chopped tomatoes
Sour cream
Shredded cheese (optional)

1. Preheat oven to 400. Line taco shalls in 9×13 baking dish.

2. Heat a medium to large skillet over medium-high heat. Add oil and ground meat. While it begins to brown, chop vegetables. Add onion, peppers, and garlic once meat is mostly browned. Saute, stirring occasionally, until onions are translucent and pepper soft. Add tomato, salsa, taco seasoning, and water. Cook for 5-10 minutes, until thickened and combined.

3. Spoon meat mixture into the taco shells. Top evenly with shredded cheese.

4. Bake for 5-10 minutes, until cheese is melted. Serve with desired toppings.

Nutritional Information (Amount per taco):

Calories: 158
Protein: 10 g
Fat: 8 g
Saturated Fat: 3 g
Cholesterol: 32 mg
Carbohydrates: 12 g
Fiber: 2 g
Sodium: 277 mg

Recipe notes: Don’t worry if your shells crack a bit trying to get them in the pan. Once you put the filling and cheese in, you can patch them back together. I would start checking the tacos at 5 minutes. The longer they are in the oven, the softer the shells become. Mine were in 8 minutes (convection oven) and the bottoms of the shells were almost too soft/soggy. The nutritional analysis uses ground turkey and doesn’t include in toppings. Refried black beans are a great side dish to serve with this.

Source: Adapted from Six Sisters’ Stuff

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Zucchini Corn Fritters

It’s getting to be that time of year where gardens are going crazy. Or if you don’t have a garden, corn, zucchini, and tomatoes are fairly inexpensive and extra tasty at the store. Here’s a great side dish or snack utilizing some of the produce in season right now.

Zucchini Corn Fritters (Makes about 18 fritters)

Zucchini Corn Fritters

1 ½ cups packed shredded zucchini (no need to peel the zucchini)
½ cup corn kernels
1 green onion, diced
1-2 large eggs, lightly beaten
¼ cup grated parmesan cheese
⅓ cup bread crumbs
¼ teaspoon dried basil
¼ teaspoon garlic powder

1. Preheat the oven to 425. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and lightly coat with cooking spray.

2. Wring out excess water in zucchini, making sure it is really dry.

3. Combine zucchini and remaining ingredients in a bowl until combined. Add additional egg if mixture is too dry.

4. Drop by spoonfuls onto baking sheet. Lightly flatten into fritter shape. Bake 15-20 minutes or until golden and center is set.

Nutritional Information (Amount per fritter):

Calories: 23
Protein: 1 g
Fat: 1 g
Saturated Fat: less than 1 g
Cholesterol: 12 mg
Carbohydrates: 3 g
Fiber: less than 1 g
Sodium: 45 mg

Recipe source: adapted from Mel’s Kitchen Cafe

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Cauliflower Quesadillas and Happy Registered Dietitian Day!

Happy Registered Dietitian Day!  The second Wednesday of March is this special day we get to celebrate the RDs in our lives.  So hug or high five any RDs you know today.  To learn more about what it means to be an RD, read here.

At first glance, this recipe sounds like something only an RD would eat.  Who would mess with delicious, cheesy quesadillas by adding cauliflower?  Even I was skeptical, but I was curious enough to try them.  Besides cauliflower was on sale that week, and my little girl was on a huge quesadilla-eating streak.  If this got some veggies in her in the process, it seemed like a win.

These quesadillas were quite possibly the best veggie quesadilla I’ve tried, and I’ve tried a lot.  It struck the perfect balance between “this tastes like vegetables and being good for me” and “yummy quesadilla”.  Even my daughter was fooled for a few bites, although the game was up once a few pieces of cauliflower fell out of her tortilla.  Enjoy!

Charred Cauliflower Quesadillas (Makes 6 quesadillas)

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1 poblano chile
1 small head of cauliflower, chopped into 1 inch chunks
1 ½ tablespoons olive oil, divided
¼ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon black pepper
1 small onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 large tomato, diced
1 cup spinach leaves
3 green onions, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon lime juice
1 ½ cups monterey jack cheese, shredded
12 whole grain tortillas

1. Heat broiler on high. Char poblano under high heat, rotating as skin blisters. Transfer to a bowl once all sides are blistered. Cover bowl with foil tightly, and let rest for about 5 minutes. When cool enough to handle, peel off as much skin as will come off easily. Remove stem and seeds. Place on cutting board.

2. Toss cauliflower with 1 tablespoon olive oil, salt, and pepper. Heat a large, heavy fry pan over high heat until almost smoking. Add cauliflower, and let it cook until beginning to char, but not mushy. Turn pieces to char all sides evenly. Total cooking time will be about 10 minutes, depending on heat of pan and size of cauliflower. Add to cutting board.

3. Return pan to medium-high heat. Add remaining ½ tablespoon olive oil. Saute onion for 3-5 minutes, or until beginning to soften. Add garlic and tomato. Cook for 3-5 minutes, until most of liquid is evaporated. Add spinach and continue to cook until spinach is wilted. Remove from heat.

4. On cutting board, coarsely chop cauliflower and poblano together. Cauliflower chunks should be no bigger than ½ inch. Poblano pieces need to be small enough to be incorporated throughout. Add to onion mixture. Stir in green onions and lime juice. Mix until combined.

5. Heat a skillet over medium to medium-high heat. Working in batches, make quesadillas. Place one tortilla on skillet. Sprinkle 2 tablespoons of cheese evenly over the surface. Top with 1/6 of vegetable mixture. Sprinkle with 2 tablespoons of cheese (you will use ¼ cup cheese per quesadilla). Top with another quesadilla. Flip when bottom tortilla is browned and cheese is melting. Cook on other side until browned and all cheese is melted. Serve immediately.

Nutritional Information (Amount per quesadilla):

Calories: 423
Protein: 16 g
Fat: 21 g
Saturated Fat: 10 g
Cholesterol: 27 mg
Carbohydrates: 49 g
Fiber: 6 g
Sodium: 708 mg

Recipe Notes: I added onion, tomato, and spinach to the original recipe. I did make some quesadillas without that, to test the original. While the original was good, this version was much better. The onion and tomato really brought home the “mexican” flavor and helped hide the “vegetable” flavor.

Source: adapted from Smitten Kitchen

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Too much pizza?

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A recent radio show broadcasted that research from the CDC stated that kids in America are eating too much pizza, which is not a healthy food. I was a bit puzzled, so I wanted to get a little more information on the actual research.

The CDC report is actually on sodium intakes in children and adolescents in the US. Like adults, children and adolescents are consuming more sodium than they need. And even in children, this can lead to increased blood pressure.

Why do we care? First, we don’t want to start kids off with health problems, like high blood pressure. This will only increase the likelihood of these problems as adults. Second, sodium intake is a taste preference. As children are developing their tastes and dietary preferences, we want to give them a healthy palate. Reducing intake when young will hopefully help prevent them from over consuming as adults.

So where does pizza come in? Pizza is the number one contributor of sodium to children and adolescent diets. Bread, poultry, cold cuts, and sandwiches round out the top five. Noticably, these are foods that naturally have high sodium. This isn’t about teaching kids to not salt their food. It is about teaching them to watch their consumption of foods naturally high in sodium.

So can your kid eat pizza? Of course! But, beware of the amount of cheese and cured meats on your toppings. Stick for less cheese, fresh cooked meats, veggies, and homemade sauce if possible. All of these allow you greater control of the sodium going in. Here are a couple of my favorites for pizza:

Marinara

Artichoke Pesto Pizza

White Chicken Pizza

Homemade Pizza Dough

What are your favorite adaptations to make pizza more healthy? Share them in the comments!

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Roasted Brussels Sprouts

I have a confession to make. I hate green bean casserole. I know this borders on insanity to many of you. I can’t stand canned green beans in any form, honestly. If I’m being completely honest, I hate any sort of green bean that hasn’t been sautéed or stir-fried. I know this is un-American. I’m sorry.

If by some miracle you are also in the anti-green bean casserole camp or are just looking for a different green vegetable side for your Thanksgiving table, I humbly submit these roasted Brussels sprouts. They caramelize into something almost sweet when you roast them. Tossed with a little bit of bacon and parmesan, I think your guests will thank you for skipping the green beans.

Enjoy!

Roasted Brussels Sprouts (Serves 4)

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1 lb Brussels sprouts
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon water
½ teaspoon black pepper
1 strip bacon, cooked until crisp and crumbled
1 tablespoon grated parmesan cheese

1. Preheat oven to 500. Place rack in upper-middle position in oven.

2. Trim stems of sprouts, but keep a little to keep intact. Cut large sprouts in half. Toss sprouts with olive oil, water, and pepper.

3. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil. Spread sprouts in an even layer in pan. Tightly cover with another sheet of aluminum foil.

4. Roast in 500 oven for about 10 minutes. Remove foil lid. Return to oven and cook for 10-12 minutes more, until sprouts are tender and lightly browned.

5. Toss cooked sprouts with bacon crumbles and parmesan cheese before serving.

Nutritional Information (Amount per serving):

Calories: 98
Protein: 5 g
Fat: 5 g
Saturated Fat: 1 g
Cholesterol: 4 mg
Carbohydrates: 11 g
Fiber: 4 g
Sodium: 99 mg

Recipe Notes: This is a pretty straightforward recipe.

Source: only slightly adapted from Cook’s Illustrated

Low-iodine adjustment: skip the bacon and cheese. Add ¼ teaspoon of salt to sprouts before roasting. Toss with just a touch more olive oil before serving.

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BBQ Pork Macaroni and Cheese

My apologies for my 2+ week disappearance.  Between moving and internet struggles, I have been a slacker.  Now that my life has calmed down a bit, I should be more regular in posting.

Macaroni and cheese finds its way on to my menu more often than not since it is delicious, easy, quick, and sure to please everyone.  While the boxed stuff is just fine for lunch every now and then, homemade mac and cheese casserole-style makes something ordinary a little more special for dinner.

The basic recipe is great, but I do like to make things interesting with “mix-ins” occasionally.  One of my favorites for a special treat is caramelized onions and BBQ pork.  Inspired by a restaurant meal I had years ago, this dish makes an average dinner worthy of company or any special occasion.

Enjoy!

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BBQ Pork Macaroni and Cheese (Serves 6)

½ tablespoon olive oil or butter
1 large yellow onion, thinly sliced
1 box (13.25 ounce) whole wheat macaroni
2 tablespoons butter
½ teaspoon black pepper
¼ cup flour
2 ½ cups skim milk
1½-2 cups grated cheese (cheddar, colby, or colby jack work well)
8 ounces cooked, shredded pork
½ cup BBQ sauce (more per personal preference)
½ cup breadcrumbs, optional

1. Preheat oven to 350.

2. Melt ½ tablespoon olive oil or butter in a medium skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion slices; sauté for 3-5 minutes until beginning to soften and brown. Reduce heat to low. Continue to cook, stirring occasionally until onions are a nice brown color, about 15-30 minutes. Place in the bottom of a well-greased 2 quart or 8×11 baking dish.

3. Mix pork with BBQ sauce until well moistened (add more if you really like BBQ). Layer on top of onions in baking dish.

4. Bring a large pot of water to boil. Add macaroni and cook until just al dente – the minimum time on the box or even a minute less. Drain.

5. While macaroni cooks, melt 2 tablespoons butter in large saucepan. When melted and beginning to bubble, add in black pepper and flour. Stir constantly, cooking for 1-2 minutes until just beginning to brown. Whisk in milk, stirring constantly. Cook until sauce thickens, stirring frequently to prevent lumps, about 5 minutes.

6. Remove sauce from heat. Stir in cheese until melted and smooth. Add in drained pasta. Stir until well combined. Layer over pork in baking dish.

7. If using, lightly toast breadcrumbs in a small skillet over medium heat, about 3-5 minutes. Sprinkle over the top of casserole.

8. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until casserole is bubbling.

Nutritional Information: (Amount per Serving)

Calories: 606
Protein: 32 g
Fat: 21 g
Saturated Fat: 10 g
Cholesterol: 79 g
Carbohydrates: 75 g
Fiber: 6 g
Sodium: 561 mg

Recipe notes: Any short pasta will work. I often use rotini or penne. But there is something extra satisfying about macaroni and cheese made with actual macaroni noodles. You may need more or less BBQ sauce. It depends on how moist your meat is and how saucy you like it. I use meat leftover from making BBQ pork sandwiches, which is generally pork shoulder. Any shredded pork will work. You can save some cheese out from the sauce to sprinkle on top. I usually forget, but it is delicious that way.

Skip the steps about the onion and pork, and this is my go-to macaroni and cheese. I often add just the onions. They don’t take much effort and cook in about the same time as getting the noodles and sauce together.

I know the nutrition doesn’t look great on this. But I cut down to skim milk and scaled back the cheese a lot. Think how much worse it could be!

Source: adapted from The Pioneer Woman and inspired by a restaurant meal

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Philly Cheesesteaks

Having never been to Philadelphia, I can’t vouch for the authenticity of these sandwiches.  But I can tell you they are delicious.  Even better, they are easy and fun to make.  My husband always helps me make these, because he thinks slicing the meat is pretty neat.

I usually buy whole-wheat hoagie rolls for these sandwiches.  I made some whole wheat french bread rolls this time.  They got a lot bigger than I expected in the second rise, so the sandwich looks huge in this picture.  The amount of filling is the right amount for four sandwiches, but there is a lot more bread than for a normal hoagie roll.

Philly Cheesesteaks (Serves 4)

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1 lb top round steak
2 teaspoons canola oil
2 bell peppers, sliced
1 onion, sliced
6 ounces of provolone cheese, sliced
4 whole wheat sandwich rolls

1. Slice steak into 1 inch strips. Place in a freezer bag and put in freezer for at least 1 hour.

2. Place largest slicing disk on food processor. Feed frozen steak strips through food processor. You should have small slices and some shaved pieces of meat.

3. Heat oil in large skillet over medium to medium-high heat. Add sliced peppers, cooking for 2-3 minutes. Add sliced onion. Cook for about 5 minutes more, or until vegetables are mostly tender.

4. Add steak and cook until no longer pink, about 3 minutes or so. Place slices of cheese over the top of the meat/vegetable mixture to evenly distribute. Cover pan, and cook until cheese melts. Serve in sandwich rolls.

Nutritional Information (Amount per sandwich):

Calories: 501
Protein: 44 g
Fat: 20 g
Saturated Fat: 9 g
Cholesterol: 101 mg
Carbohydrates: 39 g
Fiber: 6 g
Sodium: 775 mg

Recipe Notes: If you can’t find top round steak, I have used flank steak as well. It isn’t as lean, so do try to find the top round. When freezing the meat, you want a good balance of being frozen but not rock solid. If it is too frozen, the slicing blade can have a hard time with it. If you don’t have a food processor, no problem– just try to slice the steak as thinly as possible before cooking it.  You’ll likely have to cook the meat a little longer, too.  When I buy provolone, it comes in 1.5 ounce slices, so I use 4 slices. If yours comes in 1 ounce slices, you could decrease the cheese to just 4 slices. This would save you calories, fat, and sodium. But, it is a cheesesteak, so don’t be too hard on yourself.

I know the nutrition facts don’t look that great for this sandwich. But here is a commercial cheesesteaks nutrition facts:

Calories: 760 calories
Protein: 57 g
Fat: 32 g
Saturated Fat: 17 g
Cholesterol: 145 mg
Carbohydrates: 65 g
Fiber: 2 g
Sodium: 2500 mg

Source:  Adapted from America’s Test Kitchen

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