Monday, October 29, 2012

Happy Halloweener Bites & “Candy Corn” Veggie Platter

Are you hosting or attending any spooktacular parties on Wednesday? If so, here are a couple of quick and easy Pinterest-inspired ideas for appetizers or snacks for your Halloween festivities.

Happy Halloweener Bites
Makes 24 mini corndogs
1 package of cornbread mix (I used Marie Callender’s just-add-water mix)
Red and yellow food coloring
Olive oil spray
1 package of turkey hotdogs (I used Jenny-O)
Plastic spiders (optional)
Toothpicks (optional)
Preheat oven to temperature indicated on cornbread package. (Typically 400 degrees.)
Prepare cornbread batter as directed. (I used a brand that just called for water but some ask for eggs, oil, butter, etc.) Use red and yellow food coloring to achieve the desired shade of orange. (This step is optional…you can leave the batter alone and just have little mini-corndog muffins if you prefer. The orange is just more festive.) Lightly spray the mini muffin tin with olive oil spray (makes them SOOOOO much easier to remove!). Pour batter into mini muffin pan filling each section almost to the top. Cut hotdogs into one-inch pieces and insert one into each muffin. (Cutting the ends flat will help them stand up in the middle of the muffin even though the batter is runny.) Bake according to package directions. (I did 400 degrees for about 20 minutes.)
Remove from oven and allow them to cool a little before handling. Place Happy Halloweener Bites on a platter, insert a toothpick through the middle of each one for easy serving, sprinkle with plastic spiders (if desired), and serve with ketchup and mustard.
“Candy Corn” Veggie Platter
1 small pumpkin
Hummus or ranch dip (I used Trader Joe’s Mediterranean hummus)
Baby carrots
Yellow bell peppers
Slice the top off of the pumpkin. Scoop the goop and seeds out of the gourd and off the “lid” of the pumpkin. Pour hummus or ranch dip into the hollowed-out pumpkin and use as a serving dish. Chop vegetables into bite-sized pieces. If you have a triangular platter use it. If not, you can just arrange the veggies in a triangle shape. Cauliflower goes on top, carrots in the middle, and bell peppers at the bottom. Easy peasy and healthy to boot!
I made these appetizers for a Halloween/Fall Pinterest party hosted by my friend Lauren earlier this month. They were fun, festive, and I received compliments on taste and presentation. In addition, they are both really easy to make and totally kid-friendly.
I’ll post another healthy dinner entrée later this week but in the meantime, enjoy these fun little snacks and have a safe and happy Halloween!
Until next time,

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Super-Simple Crock Pot Chicken Fajitas

Fresh & tasty Tex-Mex flavor...without all the fuss!
If you haven’t already noticed, I am completely and unabashedly OBSESSED with my Crock Pot. (Think there’s a support group for that?) I’ve been crocking away at least twice a week for the past few weeks, the recipes are turning out awesome, and I’m very excited to share them with you all.

Last week, I put up the Southwestern Crock Pot Chicken Chili and promised to post the fajita recipe ASAP. Well, the whole family got wiped out with a virus so my apologies that this took a while. But hey, all good things are worth waiting for, right?
What I love about this particular recipe is that it’s very versatile. You can spoon the meat into tortillas with all the fixings (traditional fajita style), make it a salad (low-carb!), or even use it to make nachos (great idea for the leftovers).

I saw this recipe on Pinterest and thought it looked simple and yummy (my two favorite criteria for Crock Pot dishes). I made it even easier by using a store-bought seasoning packet. Also, I only had one bell pepper in the fridge so that’s what I used. Other than that, I followed the original pretty closely. Here’s what I came up with.

Super-Simple Crock Pot Chicken Fajitas

Serves 4-6
Olive oil spray
2 boneless, skinless breast fillets
1 medium yellow or white onion, sliced
1 medium bell pepper, sliced (color optional, I used yellow)
1 cup chicken stock or broth (I used organic stock from Costco)
½ packet reduced-sodium taco seasoning
1 lime, juiced or 1 tablespoon lime juice


Lightly spray the bottom and sides of the Crock Pot with olive oil spray. (You don’t have to do this but it helps with clean up.) Place thawed chicken breasts in pot. Toss in onion and bell pepper and pour chicken stock over the top. Sprinkle with taco seasoning and lime juice. Cook on low for 6-8 hours or on high for 3-5 hours. (Cooking times vary depending on size of breast fillets.) About 30 minutes prior to serving, shred chicken with two forks. Chicken shreds easily when cooked through.
This is another one of those slow cooker recipes that makes your mouth water all day as the yummy aromas drift through the house. As I mentioned earlier it’s super versatile too so you can serve the meat and veggies however you want. For round one, the hubs and I opted to make salads. I used Romaine lettuce topped with the fajita mixture, a “dressing” made up of reduced fat sour cream and salsa, and a little guacamole.
The low-carb route.
We used the leftovers to make delicious chicken fajita nachos that we devoured during a Sunday football game (GO RAVENS!). I just shredded some lite cheddar cheese and added jalapeños and salsa. Nom, nom, nom!!!
You can't go wrong with nachos!
 No matter how you decide to serve them, these Super-Simple Crock Pot Chicken Fajitas are awesome. Just a handful of basic ingredients and a slow cooker and you’re ready to go. Give this dish a try and let me know if you enjoyed it as much as we did.
Until next time,

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Southwestern Crock Pot Chicken Chili

A little Southwestern twist on a traditional favorite.
Last week I did a Facebook poll and asked everyone if they’d rather have me share a chicken chili or a chicken fajita Crock Pot recipe. The chili edged out the fajitas (not by much!) so I’m putting it up first. Don’t fret; I’ll post the fajita recipe soon too. I’m a Crock Potting maniac these days so I have lots and lots of recipes to share. All in good time my little pretties, all in good time. (Yes, that was a Wizard of Oz reference.)

Anyhoo, I based my recipe off of Skinny Taste’s Chicken Taco Chili, but made a few modifications. I swapped the black beans for kidney beans, used tomato paste instead of tomato sauce, added bell pepper and chicken stock, and used my own blend of spices instead of the store-bought seasoning packet. I also decided on fire roasted tomatoes and chilis to give it that Southwestern flair. Here’s what I came up with.
Southwestern Crock Pot Chicken Chili
Serves 6-8

1 (15-ounce) can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 (15-ounce) can pinto beans, drained and rinsed
1 (14.5-15-ounce) can of fire roasted tomatoes with green chiles, with juice
1 (6-ounce) can tomato paste
1 cup corn (I used frozen but you can use canned or fresh as well)
1 medium onion, chopped (I used red)
1 medium bell pepper, chopped (I used orange)
1 cup chicken broth or stock (I used the organic stock from Costco)
2 boneless and skinless breast fillets (if you are using frozen, you’ll need to cook for a little longer)
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon dried cumin
1 teaspoon dried oregano
½-1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (these can be hot so use less if you don’t like spice)
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder

Optional Garnishes:
Reduced-fat cheddar cheese, shredded
Raw onion, chopped
Tortilla chips or strips
Light sour cream
Fresh cilantro, chopped

Place all ingredients in Crock Pot. Cover and cook on low for approximately 8 hours or on high for 4-6 hours. (Cooking times can vary depending on brand of slow cooker and thickness of chicken breasts.) Thirty minutes prior to serving, remove cover and use two forks to shred the chicken. Chicken should shred easily when cooked through. Serve with any or all of the optional garnishes above.
How can you go wrong with all of these yummy ingredients and your trusty Crock Pot? This chili is a little spicy, completely hearty, absolutely tasty, and best of all totally healthy. I used a dollop of reduced-fat sour cream and a sprinkling of raw onions as a garnish and was very happy with the end result.

I don’t know what it is about chili but it’s always better the next day. Something magical happens in those overnight hours in the fridge. Seriously. I had another serving for lunch the next day with the exact same garnishes and I loved it even more.
If you’re looking for an easy and tasty alternative to traditional chili, this south-of-the-border twist should be right up your alley. Enjoy!

Until next time,

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Parmesan Zucchini Boats

Nom, nom, nom...broiled cheesy goodness!
For some strange reason there are certain items I can’t seem to resist buying when I go to the grocery store. One is sour cream. It’s the one thing in my fridge that I always think is past the expiration date (it never is) or I forget we have some buried in the back behind the milk and we end up with two tubs. The other is vegetables. I get this strange compulsion when I enter the produce section. Must. Buy. Veggies. It’s weird.

Needless to say, our crisper is often full of lots and lots of a particular vegetable. Lately it’s been zucchinis. In the past weeks we’ve had them drizzled with olive oil, salt, and pepper and cooked on the grill. I’ve added them to spaghetti squash “pasta," chicken soup, and vegetable lasagna. I’ve even sprinkled them with a little season salt and steamed them in the microwave as a quick and easy side.  
So, when I ran across this recipe, I knew I had to try it. A new way to make zucchini that involves bubbly broiled cheese? Don’t mind if I do! I really didn’t stray from the original recipe (other than using seasoned bread crumbs); I just tweaked the prep a bit. Here’s what I came up with.

Parmesan Zucchini Boats
Serves 2 (as a side dish)
2 zucchini squash, halved, seeds scooped with spoon
Olive oil spray
Freshly ground black pepper
1-2 tablespoons crushed garlic
10-15 cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
1-2 tablespoons seasoned bread crumbs
1-2 tablespoons parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Slice zucchini lengthwise and then in half. (You don’t have to cut them in half, but I did so they would fit better in my baking dish.) Slice a thin strip off the rounded back of the zucchini so it will lie flat in the pan. Use a spoon to scoop out the seeds of the zucchini. (This will make a shallow “trench” in each vegetable section, hence the “boat.”)

Place the zucchini boats in a shallow glass baking pan and lightly spritz with olive oil spray.
Coat zucchini pieces liberally with freshly ground black pepper.

Evenly spread a thin layer of the crushed garlic into each “boat.”
Distribute the tomato halves evenly on each zucchini slice.

Sprinkle lightly with bread crumbs.
Ready for the oven!
Bake for 30 minutes at 350 degrees.
Remove from heat, distribute parmesan cheese evenly over zucchini boats. Turn on broiler to high. Place boats back in the oven and broil for 3-4 minutes until cheese is browned and bubbly. Keep a close eye on them so they don’t burn. Serve immediately.

Yay for finding the 400th way to eat zucchini squash! These turned out perfect. (How could they not, there is broiled cheese involved!) The hubs and I ate these as an appetizer while we waited for the Crock Pot Turkey Bacon and Corn Chowder to finish simmering and we wished we had more. They were so good!
If you’re looking for an easy and tasty way to prepare your zuchs (hmmmm…yellow squash would be good like this too) then this recipe is for you. Bon Appétit!

Until next time,

Monday, October 8, 2012

Turkey Bacon and Corn Crock Pot Chowder

Loaded with veggies, turkey bacon, and great flavor!
It FINALLY feels a little like fall here in Southern California. The air has just a hint of crispness to it. It’s cool enough to switch off the AC and throw open some windows. And no one will look at you funny if you start burning those pumpkin spice candles.

What better way to celebrate the changing of the seasons than to make a hearty, yummy, and—most important—healthy corn chowder. Even better? I’ve made it a Crock Pot recipe so it’s SUPER simple. Even better than that? I used turkey bacon. And, as everyone knows, everything is better with bacon in any form.

The original recipe made my mouth water when I read it so I took that as a good sign.  But even though it sounded delicious, I couldn’t resist the urge to mess with it a little and figure out a way to make it slow cooker-friendly. (The original recipe was made on the stove top.) Here’s what I came up with.

Turkey Bacon and Corn Crock Pot Chowder

Serves 8


3 cups chicken stock or broth (I used the organic stock from Costco)
3 cups reduced-fat milk (I used the lactose-free Albertson’s brand)
2  cups corn (I used frozen but you can use fresh or canned)
1 (15-ounce) can black beans, drained and rinsed
1-1 ½ cups red bell pepper, chopped
1 cup celery, chopped
1 cup onion, chopped (I used red but any color will do)
3 small potatoes, chopped (I used organic gold potatoes from Trader Joes)
7 slices reduced-sodium turkey bacon, chopped into thin strips
Freshly ground black pepper, optional (to taste)
Dash salt, optional (to taste)
Hot sauce, optional (to taste, I used Tapatio)

Place all ingredients in Crock Pot and cook on low for 6-8 hours or on high for 3-5 hours. (The longer you let this one simmer, the better.)


Oh. Muh. Gawd. The house smelled sooooooooo good when this was cooking, you wouldn’t even believe it. Think loaded baked potato.  And the aromas started wafting through the kitchen after only 45 minutes or so. Needless to say, it was hours upon hours of olfactory torture waiting for the soup to be ready.

As is, the soup is really good. For my first bowl, I decided to add more freshly ground pepper and a dash of salt to boost the flavor a little. And it was great. For my second helping, I went for spicy and added a liberal amount of Tapatio hot sauce. I’ve got to say, this was my favorite way to eat it. The spice was a nice complement t to the sweetness of the corn, and I like my food with a little bit of heat so this was perfect for me. The hubs was a big fan of adding the hot sauce as well.

Now, even though this is a chowder, the broth is a bit on the thin side. If you want to thicken it, you’ll need to add a little cornstarch or flour. (Just whisk either into cold water and add the mixture slowly to the soup until you’ve reached the desired consistency.)

If you’re looking for a healthy and hearty soup to warm you up on a brisk Fall day, this is the perfect recipe for you. Give it a try and let me know what you think.

Until next time,

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Turkey and Veggie Spaghetti Squash "Pasta"

All the flavor of spaghetti without the carbs, fat, or guilt.

Growing up, I used to HATE vegetables. No joke, the only ones I would eat were carrots. But that was because they were orange and I went through a phase where I would only eat orange food. Yeah, I was a total P.I.T.A (pain in the a$$). My poor mother.

Today, I actually enjoy my veggies, not only because I know they are good for me but because I’ve actually found ways to prepare them that are delicious. And when that fails, you can always sneak them in to a variety of foods so that you—and the kids—don’t know the difference.
I didn’t even bother looking up a recipe for this one. I just threw the vegetables I had in the fridge into the sauce and called it a day.
Here’s what I came up with.

Turkey and Veggie Spaghetti Squash “Pasta”
Serves 4

1 medium spaghetti squash
Olive oil spray
1 pound lean ground turkey
Dash garlic powder
1 (20-25 ounce) jar pasta sauce (I used Trader Joe’s Arrabiata Sauce)
1 medium zucchini, peeled and quartered
1 cup carrots, peeled and chopped
1 bell pepper, seeded and chopped (I used yellow but any  color will do)
Shaved parmesan cheese, for garnish (optional)
Freshly ground black pepper, for garnish (optional)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Slice spaghetti squash in half, lengthwise for the brave who own sharp knives, or crosswise for those with faint hearts and dull cutlery. (I cut mine crosswise since my knife was of questionable sharpness.) Using a spoon, remove seeds and pulp from both halves of the squash.

Line a baking sheet with tin foil and place squash rind side up. Roast in the oven for 40-45 minutes.
While squash is cooking, spritz a large skillet with olive oil spray. Add ground turkey and a dash of garlic powder and brown over medium-high heat stirring frequently until cooked through (about 5-6 minutes). Add pasta sauce to  the skillet along with chopped zucchini, carrots, and bell pepper. Bring meat, vegetables, and sauce to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and simmer.

When squash is done cooking, remove from oven and set aside to cool.

Continue simmering the sauce for 20-30 minutes or until vegetables are tender.

When squash has cooled enough to handle (a minimum of 20 minutes), use a fork to shred the flesh into strands that resemble thin pasta noodles.
Place “pasta” in serving bowls and spoon the vegetable/turkey sauce over the top. Serve immediately, garnished with a little shaved parmesan cheese and freshly ground black pepper if desired.

I’m not sure what excited me most about this recipe so I’ll just start listing the positive points. #1 It was really, really tasty. #2 It is low carb and full of vegetables and lean protein so it’s super healthy. #3 The hubs liked it. #4 This one is probably my fave: My just-turned-one-year-old gobbled it up for lunch the following day (happy mommy!).

If you love the flavor of spaghetti, but are looking for a much healthier way to enjoy Italian cuisine, this faux pasta dish is definitely the way to go. I hope your family enjoys this recipe as much as mine did.
Until next time,