My Blog List

Friday, March 30, 2012

25th Year College Reunion Planning

I have been recruited to chair my Alma Mater's 25th college reunion taking place this summer.  I wonder if there is anything I could do to muster the enthusiasm of classmates to attend.  College graduation was a lifetime ago.  And how much we all have changed since then.  I don't mind stepping up, but it is a monumental challenge given the amount of time which has passed and the fact many graduates are no longer living within driving distance.  I can't imagine what would motivate alumnae to travel any great distance to return for the event.

In many ways it is bittersweet.  My daughter is about to begin her first semester of college in the fall.  She has narrowed her choices down to 2 great Universities within the state.   Given the high cost of education at the private colleges, the public colleges and Universities in New York (SUNY) are a wonderful value.  This is the reason why I am stepping up to chair the event.  It will be fun to return to the college, although my family had visited last summer when my daughter took a campus tour.  She will not follow in my footsteps, as her academic strengths are much more technical.

Now if I could only break this down into smaller more manageable steps like I did when I studied and passed the CPA exam 2 years ago.  I have been encouraged to contact fellow alumni to try to encourage them to attend.  Any suggestions, I am not even sure where to start! I have to pinch myself when I realize how many years have passed since graduation from college.  Twenty five years this May, I can't believe it!  Because I certainly do not feel that old...

Whole Wheat Spinach Ricotta Calzones

I wanted to try making a healthier calzone using whole wheat instead of white flour and part skim/non fat cheeses.   I sauteed baby spinach and mushrooms in olive oil before adding the vegetables to a mixture of mozzarella and ricotta cheeses. This recipe yields 4 medium size calzones.  Each serving (1 calzone) contains approximately 500 calories.  Maybe not an every day meal, but a special treat once in awhile!

Whole Wheat Spinach Ricotta Calzones

1 package active dry yeast (I used Pizza Crust yeast)
1 cup warm water
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2 and 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 and 1/4 cups fat free ricotta cheese
1 egg, beaten
1/4 cup freshly grated parmesan
1 cup shredded part skim mozzarella
1 Tablespoon fresh italian parsley
2 teaspoons olive oil
6 oz. package of fresh baby spinach
1 cup mushrooms

In a small bowl, dissolve yeast in water.

Add the oil, sugar, and salt.  Mix in 1 cup of the flour until smooth.  Gradually stir in the rest of the flour until dough is smooth and workable. 

Knead dough on a lightly floured surface for about 5 minutes or until it is elastic.  Lay dough in a bowl containing 1 teaspoon olive oil and flip the dough around.  I used pizza yeast so that it wasn't necessary to let the dough rise.  If using regular yeast cover and let rise for 40 minutes until it has almost doubled.  When dough is ready, separate it out into 4 parts. Roll out the dough.  I made 4 triangle shaped pieces.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Add 2 teaspoons olive oil to a skillet and saute mushrooms until tender. 

Add the baby spinach and saute for just about a minute longer or until it is wilted.

Remove from heat.  Next mix ricotta cheese, egg, fresh parmesan cheese, and fresh parsley in a bowl.

To this mixture add the sauteed spinach and mushrooms and mix to combine.

Place filling in center of each of the whole wheat triangles. Roll the pointed size to meet the solid edge and close.  Calzones will appear slightly overstuffed, but once in the oven will settle once they have started heating up.  There may be a slight amount of filling left.  Heat in a 350 degree oven for 25-30 minutes or until done.  Serve with your favorite sauce. 

Serves 4 at approximately 500 calories/serving.  Bon Appetit.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Lemon Poppy Muffins

I came up with a healthy recipe for Lemon Poppy Muffins using whole wheat flour and oat bran.  They are easy to prepare and the natural lemon juice gives them their great taste.  This recipe yields 15 muffins at approximately 132 calories/muffin.

Lemon Poppy Muffins

1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup natural applesauce
3/4 cup fat free sour cream
2 eggs
2 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 cup honey
1/2 cup preferred sweetener (or sugar)
zest of 2 lemons
3/4 cup oat bran
3/4 cup whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
2 Tablespoons poppy seeds
1/4 teaspoon salt

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Mix together the vegetable oil, applesauce, sour cream, eggs, fresh lemon juice, vanilla, honey, and preferred sweetener (or sugar).

I used a small juicer to extract the fresh lemon juice.

Add the zest of 2 lemons to a large bowl.

Add the whole wheat flour, oat bran, baking powder, baking soda, poppy seeds, and salt to the lemon zest.

Add the oil and egg mixture to the flour mixture.  Mix to combine.

Add muffin liners to a muffin tin.  Fill each muffin about 2/3 full.

Place in preheated 400 degree oven and cook for about 20-25 minutes or until heated through.

Yields about 15 muffins at 132 calories/muffin. 

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Healthy Crockpot Chicken Soup

I love chicken soup.  I have always struggled with making a homemade chicken broth because I don't like the added fat that results when boiling chicken in a broth.  To get around this, first I boil boneless chicken breasts seperately.  Then I add the boiled chicken to low sodium chicken broth in a crockpot with vegetables and heat at the low setting for 8 hours.  This results in a soup that tastes great but without all the added fat and excess sodium.  Yields 6 servings at 240 calories/serving.

Healthy Crockpot Chicken Soup

3 boneless chicken breasts with excess fat removed
7 cups low sodium chicken broth
3/4 cup chopped onion
1 cup chopped green pepper
1/4 cup tomatoes, diced
1 jalapeno pepper, chopped with seeds removed
2 cans cannellini beans (white kidney beans), rinsed and drained
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon oregano
1-2 garlic cloves
salt and pepper to taste

Boil 3 boneless chicken breasts in water until cooked through and tender.

Chop cooked chicken into bite sized pieces for the soup.  Place cooked chicken into the crockpot.

Boil water and add bouillon cubes to make the chicken broth.  Simmer for a couple of minutes.

Next chop green peppers into small pieces.

I used the help of my Kitchen Aid mini food processor to chop the onions.

Chop the jalapeno pepper into small pieces. Careful when handling the pepper.  Remember to wear gloves.  Even hand washing will not remove the potentially irritating juices from your skin.  Remove the seeds and veins from the pepper before chopping.

Chop the tomatoes into small pieces.

Rinse and drain the cannellini beans.

Add all the vegetables to the chicken in the crockpot.

Add the chicken broth, cumin, oregano, garlic, and salt and pepper to taste and cook on the low setting for 8 hours. 
Yields 6 servings at approximately 240 calories/serving. 

Melon Fruit Salad

I love a fresh fruit salad. When fresh fruit is sitting in the fridge it's easy to forget to use it before it spoils.  I think my family is more likely to snack on fruits and veges that have been prepared in advance.   As the warm spring weather approaches, it's a great way to enjoy fresh seasonal fruit. There is a little preparation involved, about 30 minutes to cut and prepare the fresh fruit.  As pictured this fruit salad has approximately 184 calories.

Melon Fruit Salad

3 cups peeled and chopped peaches
1 cup fresh mozzarella part skim cheese balls, cut in half
1 Tablespoon fresh basil
4 cups seeded watermelon
4 cups honeydew melon
3 cups sliced strawberries
2 cups seedless red grapes
1/2 cup chopped walnuts

Slice and chop fresh fruit. Slice mozzarella cheese balls. Fruit salad can be served with some plain yogurt or as is.  Yields 10 servings at 184 calories/each.

Slice the red grapes in half.

Slice the red strawberries.

Slice the peaches in small pieces.

Slice the honey dew melon in small pieces.

Slice the watermelon in small chunks.

Slice the mozzarella cheese balls in half.

I used a spice grinder to chop the fresh basil.

Combine the fresh fruit in a large bowl with the fresh mozzarella, fresh basil and walnuts.  Stir to combine.

Serves 10 at approximately 184 calories/serving.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Strawberry Cream Cheese Muffins

I came up with a healthy recipe for strawberry cream cheese muffins using coarse bran, fresh strawberries and fat free cream cheese.  Before baking fresh strawberries are placed on a slice of fat free cream cheese on top of each muffin.  Center of muffins will be soft and creamy because of the cream cheese/strawberry filling.  This recipe yields 18 muffins at approximately 150 calories per muffin.

Strawberry Cream Cheese Muffins

1 cup coarse bran (I used Shiloh Farms Coarse Wheat Bran, a.k.a. Miller's Bran)
1 cup boiling water
1/2 cup preferred sweetener (or sugar)
1/4 cup honey
2 eggs
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup natural applesauce
1 and 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 cup fat free sour cream
1 teaspoon vanilla
2/3 cup chopped strawberries for muffin batter
2 cups chopped strawberries for garnish
8 oz. package fat free cream cheese

Boil water and add coarse bran.  Remove from heat and let stand for 10 minutes.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Meanwhile combine honey, eggs, vegetable oil, applesauce, fat free sour cream, and vanilla.

In separate bowl mix together whole wheat flour and baking soda.

Add flour mixture to oil mixture containing eggs, applesauce and sour cream.  Stir to combine. 

Next add the coarse bran.

Chop the 2/3 cup fresh strawberries into small pieces.  Gently fold the chopped strawberries into the batter.

Stir to combine.  Add muffin liners to a muffin tin.  Add batter to muffin tin reserving some batter to cover strawberry and cream cheese filling before baking.  This recipe made enough to yield about 18-20 muffins.

Cut cream cheese into small pieces.

Place a piece of cream cheese on top of the muffin batter for each muffin.

Next add fresh strawberries.

Top with remaining reserved batter.  I recently modified this recipe by adding a thin layer of batter on top of the filling for each muffin before baking.  This helped to reduce the sinking appearance that resulted from the strawberry/cream cheese filling.

Place in preheated oven and cook until muffins are cooked through, about 30-35 minutes.  Muffins are done when toothpick stuck in center comes out clean.  Cream cheese will be moist and soft at the center.

Recipe yields 18-20 muffins at approximately 150 calories/muffin.  Enjoy!

Friday, March 16, 2012

Lightened Up Macaroni & Cheese

My family had been craving macaroni and cheese and I had to come up with a recipe we could all enjoy.  Something that would taste rich creamy but minus all the fat and calories.  I played around with this recipe for a couple of weeks and finally got it right.  This recipe serves 6 at approximately 350 calories/serving.  With the steamed vegetables as pictured this meal has about 380 calories.

Lightened Up Macaroni and Cheese

3 cups whole wheat elbow macaroni, uncooked
1 teaspoon olive oil
1/2 red pepper diced
2 light whole wheat bread crusts, chopped
2 Tablespoons parmesan cheese
2 Tablespoons of the fat free cheddar
1/2 teaspoon parsley
1 cup lowfat cottage cheese
1 cup fat free sour cream
3/4 cup lowfat milk
7 oz. package of fat free cheddar
2 Tablespoons flour
1/2 teaspoon ground mustard
salt and pepper to taste

Boil and cook elbow macaroni as package directs, drain, and set aside.  Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Dice red pepper into tiny pieces.

Heat 1 teaspoon olive oil in a small saucepan.  Add the red pepper and saute for a couple of minutes until just softened.

Spray a casserole dish with non stick cooking spray.  Add the elbow macaroni and mix in the sauteed red pepper mixture.  I prepared an extra small casserole dish for my daughter who doesn't like the red pepppers.  This recipe tastes fine without the added peppers if preferred.

Cut off crusts of 2 slices of light whole wheat bread.  I used the help of my mini chopper to grind the crusts into bread crumbs.  Add the parmesan cheese, parsley and reserved cheddar cheese.

Next place the cottage cheese into a blender or food processor.  Blend until smooth.

Once smooth, mix with the fat free sour cream in a large bowl.

Heat the milk in a medium saucepan over medium heat until warm and bubbly. Next add the flour.  Reduce the heat to low and mix with the cheddar cheese.  Stir in ground mustard and salt and pepper to taste.  Stir over low heat until cheese is melted.

Mix the milk and cheese mixture into the sour cream and cottage cheese.  Stir until mixture is combined.  It will be thick.  The mixture will blend together well once it is heated in the oven.

Pour cheese mixture over macaroni in the casserole dish and stir to combine.  Spread bread crumb mixture over the macaroni.  I used a few sprays of Olivio buttery spray to moisten the bread crumbs once I placed them in the casserole.

Place in preheated oven and heat for about 25-30 minutes or until warm and bubbly.

This recipe yields 6 servings of macaroni and cheese at approximately 350 calories per serving.  Enjoy!