Thursday, January 31, 2008

Make your own tortilla chips!

Tortilla chips are always a great snack, and they are especially good for dipping during a football game or movie!

I like to make my own so I can bake them instead of frying. I always use corn tortillas because I love the flavor and unlike flour tortillas, they are fat free! One whole corn tortilla is only 1 point!

Just take your tortillas and spray each one with cooking spray. Sprinkle with seasoning salt, sea salt, cumin, lime zest and / or garlic salt. Stack the tortillas and cut them into wedges (I like to cut each one into 8 wedges).

Place the wedges, in a single layer, on a sprayed baking sheet and pop them into a 400 degree oven for 7 minutes. Check to see if they are golden and crispy. If not, toss and bake a few more minutes.

Everyone will enjoy these as much as any you have had before! And for a special treat serve them with the 3 Layer dip below!

3 Layer Dip

When I was young my mother used to make a 3 layer Mexican Dip. We ate it with loads of fried tortilla chips. I have updated this recipe to make meat free and lower points.

1 8 oz block of Fat Free cream cheese
1 15 oz can Fat Free refried beans
1 small jar of salsa
1 cup of taco or Mexican blend shredded cheese

Baked tortilla chips
  1. Place cream cheese in a glass pie plate. Microwave 45 seconds. Spread across the bottom of the plate.
  2. Mix 1/4 cup of salsa with the refried beans in a bowl. Spread the mixture over the cheese.
  3. Sprinkle the top with the shredded cheese.
  4. Heat the dip in the microwave for 5 minutes or bake in a 350 degree oven for 20 minutes, until the cheese is melted.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Get Pickled

The two following recipes are for pickles. When you buy pickles in the store they are loaded with salt (that and vinegar are the main pickling ingredients). These do have salt, but just a fraction of store bought pickles. And even though there is a lot of sugar, it stays in the liquid and just flavors the pickles.

If the sugar is a worry for you, just replace some or all of it with Splenda.

Please give these easy recipes a try. You will love both of them and I am sure you will be making them again and again!


Dilly (pickled) Beans

This was my first adventure into pickling. It is so easy to do. And these go great with cocktails (especially bloody marys)!

2 qts water
1 Tablespoons salt
2 lbs green beans, whole and trimmend
2 Tablespoons salt
1 tsp mustard seed
1 tsp dried dill
1 tsp crushed red pepper
4 cloves garlic, bruised
2/3 cups sugar
2 cups vinegar
2 cups water
  1. Bring 2 qts of water to a boil. Add the salt. Add the beans and cook 5 minutes or until tender crisp.
  2. Drain off hot water and cool the beans. Pack cooled beans into a storage container (plastic or glass is fine) with a lid.
  3. Combine vinegar, 2 cups of water, salt, sugar and remaining spices in a saucepan. Bring to a boil and simmer 2 minutes.
  4. Pour over beans.
  5. Allow to cool then refrigerate 1 day.

EASY Refrigerator Pickles

I promise you will not be able to stop eating these. I realize there is sugar in this but very little is absorbed by the pickle so just enjoy!

6 cups thinly sliced pickling cucumbers (about 2 pounds)
2 cups thinly sliced onion (1 large)
1 1/2 cups white vinegar
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon mustard seeds
1/2 teaspoon celery seeds
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  1. Place 3 cups cucumber in a medium glass bowl; top with 1 cup onion. Repeat procedure with the remaining 3 cups cucumber and remaining 1 cup onion.
  2. Combine vinegar and remaining ingredients in a small saucepan; stir well. Bring to a boil; cook 1 minute. Pour over cucumber mixture; let cool. Cover and chill at least 4 days.

Note: Pickles may be stored in the refrigerator for up to one month.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Beans - they are good for your heart!

Have you ever heard the rhyme "beans beans they're good for your heart; the more you eat the more you f*&t: the more you f*&t the better you feel; let's have beans at every meal!"?

Guess what? It is true. Well, they are good for your digestive track too! If you don't want colon polyps, beans should be your friends.

Worried about the gas? Try these things:
  • Rinse canned beans before cooking or eating them.
  • Pour off the soaking water for dry beans and use fresh for cooking.
  • Increase bean consumption gradually.
  • Offset the added fiber with plenty of fluids and exercise.

Here's an easy (5 pt per serving or core) bean dish to whip up!

Bolognese a la Beans (tomato braised beans)

1 14-ounce can white beans, rinsed, divided
4 teaspoons olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
1/2 cup chopped, carrot
1/4 cup chopped celery
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 cloves garlic, chopped
2 Tablespoons white wine
1 14-ounce can diced tomatoes
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley, divided
8 ounces whole-wheat pasta

1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

1. Put a large pot of water on to boil. Mash 1/2 cup beans in a small bowl with a fork.

2. Heat oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Add onion, carrot, celery and salt; cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 10 minutes. Add garlic; cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 15 seconds. Add wine; increase heat to high and boil until most of the liquid evaporates, 2 minutes. Add tomatoes (with juices), 2 tablespoons parsley and the mashed beans. Bring to a simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, until thickened, about 6 minutes. Add the remaining whole beans; cook, stirring occasionally, until heated through, 1 to 2 minutes more.

3. Meanwhile, cook pasta in the boiling water until tender. Drain.

4. Divide the pasta among 4 bowls. Top with the sauce, sprinkle with Parmesan and the remaining parsley.

Note: To add additional flavor you can add a Tablespoon of Italian spice. This may also be served over polenta instead of pasta.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Velvet Vegetable Soup

1 (3-4 pound) butternut squash
Cooking spray
1 large onion, cut into 8 wedges
2 large carrots, peeled and cut into chunks
1 large turnip, large dice (optional)
1 teaspoons canola oil
6 - 8 cups fat-free, chicken broth (or bullion)
1/3 cup apple juice concentrate
1 teaspoon curry powder
3/4 teaspoon salt (or more to taste)
white pepper to taste
1/8 teaspoon ground red pepper
1/2 teaspoon thyme (optional)

Preheat oven to 425°.
  1. Peel squash; cut in half and discard seeds and membranes. Cut squash into large chunks.
  2. Toss all the vegetables with a teaspoon of canola oil.
  3. Place squash, and vegetables on a jelly-roll pan or roasting pan coated with cooking spray.
  4. Bake at 425° for 45 minutes or until squash and onion are tender.
  5. Place vegetables in a Dutch oven (stock pot). Stir in broth and the remaining ingredients (bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer 15 minutes or until completely tender.
  6. Place half of squash mixture in a blender. Remove center piece of blender lid (to allow steam to escape); secure blender lid on blender. Place a clean towel over opening in blender lid (to avoid splatters). Blend until smooth. Pour into a large bowl or pot. Repeat procedure with remaining squash mixture.
  7. Cook over medium heat 5 minutes or until thoroughly heated.
Adjust seasonings.

Yield: 10 servings - only 1 point each

Going Green - skip the bottled water

Chicago chefs are going green. No more bottled water! That's right. The bottle that your water comes in requires 3X the water in the bottle to create that plastic bottle. Also the bottle is a petroleum product which creates harmful pollution in it's processing as well as requiring precious oil in it's creation.

The water from our taps in the United States is among the best in the world. The water in those bottles we buy may be (not even guaranteed) filtered. But we can filter our own water and use the same bottle over and over.

Since I try to have 6 8 oz servings of water everyday (or more) I use a Weight Watchers 24 oz bottle and fill it twice each day. That way I eliminate the waste of 3 plastic bottles each day; or 21 bottles a week; or 90 bottles a month; or 1095 bottles a year.

Even if I recycle that many bottles, the recycling process requires energy too. And we, at least in Chicago, have no proof or reason to believe recycling is actually occuring.