Saturday, April 1, 2017

Mom's Cheesy Potatoes on a diet

One of my favorite dishes in the world, my Mom's Cheesy Potatoes.  It's like crack to me, cheese and potatoes are my ultimate weakness.  It's something that without a strict diet I could easily mow down half the pan in one sitting.  (I'm pretty sure I have in fact done this) And I'm not the only one, last time I made it I had maybe two servings and the rest was eaten within 24 hours by two people.  This recipe makes 12 servings.  And my servings are normal people size servings, not one of those stupid "Serving Size" of one package of Raman Noodles apparently is for 2 people. Ridiculous I say!
I found this pretty awesome website where you can not only add your recipes to share but also just put in your recipes to just calculate nutritional information.  I highly suggest it if you have recipes that call for a lot of things you can't just look on the back of the box to see how many calories it is. Spark Recipes Calculator Website  Converting a recipe to a lower calorie version in most cases is relatively easy, I wouldn't suggest it when baking because that's a science and putting in different ingredients can sometimes be disastrous.  For me when making this recipe I pretty much when buying the ingredients looked around to see what options I had for lower calories.  Campbell's does make a reduced fat Cream of Chicken soup, it took a bit of searching but I found it.  I think the only thing that I couldn't find a lower calorie version of was the actual potatoes.

So here's the promised recipe of a reduce fat and calorie version of my Mom's Cheesy Potatoes (original recipe with nutritional info:Mom's Cheesy Potatoes )

2 lbs Frozen Hash browns, shredded are best
.5 c Margarine, melted
1 lb Reduced Fat Cheddar
1 can 98% Reduced Fat Cream of Chicken Soup
1 pt Fat Free Sour Cream
1 tsp salt
.5 tsp pepper
1 medium onion, diced
2 c crushed cornflakes

In a saucepan, melt Margarine, soup, and sour cream.  In a large bowl, combine potatoes, cheese, onion, and salt & pepper.  Pour the soup mixture over the potato mixture and mix to coat the potatoes as evenly as possible.  Pour into a 9x13 casserole pan and cover with the cornflakes. Bake 45 minutes in a 350 degree oven.

The original stats per serving of this recipe are: 512.7 calories, 36.7g Fat (yowza!), 56.3mg Cholesterol, 742.9mg Sodium, 38g Carbohydrates, and 10g Protein.  My reduced calorie version's stats in comparison: 264 Calories, 16.6g Fat (still high but in comparison way lower), 32.2mg Cholesterol, 562.3mg Sodium, 25.2g Carbohydrates, and 14.2g Protein.


Today I decided to make a healthy snack but I was in the mood for Mexican, so I made some Guacamole which is so super easy to make I don't know why I just buy the ingredients more often and make it myself.  I had to make Guacamole literally everyday for about 6 months straight from scratch so I probably was just burnt out on making it, but since its been a good year since I had to be a slave to Guacamole I'm no longer scarred for life.  In my recipe I do use lemon juice mostly because I had it on hand already, but I'd highly recommend using the same about of lime juice if you can get it.  Its very important to add this ingredient to the Guacamole.  Besides the avocados I'd say the lemon or lime juice is the thing you can't skip.  If you don't add it then you're avocados will go brown very quick, adding the acid will give you an extra day or two of good color depending on the actual avocados.  I've used avocados in the past that even with acid and using all the other "tricks" to keep it looking fresh would turn brown within minutes.  My recipe is for a non-spicy Guacamole, if you want it spicier just add a diced jalapeno and more Frank's red hot or Tabasco.


3 avocados, pitted and peeled
1 red onion, diced
1 large tomato, diced
3 T raw cilantro, chopped
1 T lemon juice
1 T salt
1 t pepper
1 t garlic powder
1 t Frank's Red Hot

If you happen to have a mortar and pestle put all the ingredients into it and grind away until its a nice paste.  If you don't then just put it all into a bowl and use a large wooden spoon and smash it all together.  And Voila! you have Guacamole!  To keep it relatively healthy make sure to portion out one serving of your chips before starting to munch, because this is something that is super easy to just snack and snack and snack.  I say this makes about 10 servings but if you're not careful you can easily eat more than one serving, though I didn't actually measure out the size of servings, sorry!  Each serving is about 96 calories, and it has about 8 grams of Fat which is a lot but at the same time its fat from avocados which is pretty good for you because it doesn't give any cholesterol like animal fats do.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Split Pea Soup

I don't know about you, but up until maybe two years ago I always viewed Split Pea Soup as a disgusting and unappetizing soup that no one liked. It certainly looks unappealing with its puke green color with random chunks of ham so I just never tried it. It wasn't until I became Sous Chef at a corporate cafe and had it put on the menu that I even tried it, mostly because I had to make it. Let me tell you, making something that you are going to sell even though you've never actually tried it or in fact cooked it before is quite a daunting task, one of which happened to me multiple times. Luckily for me, I remembered my basics from Culinary School and also read the split pea package which had some basic instructions and from there I winged it. This is when I discovered my love for Split Pea Soup. However I have also discovered that I only like fresh and from scratch Split Pea Soup, I can't stomach the stuff from cans.

This soup recipe is super easy to prepare and could easily be made in a crock pot. I don't generally use my crock pot seeing as mine is literally older than I am. Seriously I'm pretty sure its from the 70s. And I use my giant stock pot (2 gallons is giant right?) and usually after I'm halfway done I realize that I probably could have used my crock pot. After working in commercial kitchens for a few years its hard for me to add to my repertoire things like microwaves and crock pots. Friends of mine who generally say they can't cook use crock pots better than I do! Anyway, as I said this recipe could easily be put into a crock pot and let it sit for a few hours, though it does take a good 2 hours of cooking time on the stove as well. I did try to calculate calories for this soup as well, though I'm not exactly sure how accurate my nutritional information is because there is reducing involved so the serving size of 12 ounces. I would say the calories aren't far off at least, I think within 50 calories or so. This is quite a healthy dish. For 12 ounces of Split Pea Soup my calorie calculator website says it would be about 185 calories which is pretty awesome because it is super filling. I feel like this soup fills me up more than any other soup I make.

Split Pea Soup

1 lb dry Split Peas 
1/2 lb ham, diced
1 lb carrots, diced
1 large onion, diced
10 cups water
2 chicken bouillon cubes
Salt & Pepper
Garlic Powder
Onion Powder

With a small amount of oil saute the carrots, onion, and ham in a stock pot. You don't really need to get any color on them you almost want to sweat them more than saute them. Add the Split Peas, water, and Bouillon cubes. Stir and bring to a boil on high heat.

Once boiling add your salt, pepper, and garlic & onion powders, though you'll probably add more at the end as well to taste. Turn the heat down to medium-low and cook for about 2 hours, just check to see if everything is nice and mushy, if its not I just turn up the heat for a quick boil for a few minutes while frequently stirring just to finish cooking off the carrots (when I made this my carrots weren't done all the way until after this but I didn't cut them very small!). Turn off the heat, and remove if you're on an electric stovetop. Next take your immersion blender, if you don't have one you probably will have to use a normal blender just be careful to hold the top with a kitchen towel so it doesn't blow off with the heat, but an immersion blender is best! Once its nice and blended give it a taste, but don't be like me and burn your tongue because its wicked hot. This is when you add more of your seasonings to get it to where you like. I had to end up adding a whole lot of salt to mine. This makes at least 5 large servings or 10 small servings. I would suggest freezing half if you are cooking for just yourself because I'll usually eat it about 3 days in a row then want something else.

An alternate less healthy version of this and super delicious is instead of ham you use 4-5 slices of good bacon. If you use bacon make sure to render all the fat out before adding the veggies and you won't have to add any oil at all since there will be more than enough bacon grease. When I made it with bacon instead of ham I had all my animals fighting each other for the rights to lick my bowl every time I heated it up. One of our cats actually tried to stick her head in the pot to eat some, luckily I stopped her before she stole any of my soup!

Hope you enjoy this as much as I do!

Raspberry Bran Muffins

I feel like sometimes you need to eat outside your comfort zone. Quite a few of my recipes I post here are things that only a few years ago I never would have eaten and that I feel like if you give them a chance as I have you will find new things to enjoy. Only at my last cooking job did I discover Bran Muffins. Who knew something that I've avoided like the plague could be so delicious! 

Not only are they tasty they are pretty damn good for you. I made these as mini muffins and each muffin comes out to only 87 calories each. I got the original recipe from but instead of raisins I put frozen raspberries that I had already. This was so easy you can easily put whatever fruit you want in it, just  always fold it in, either dried fruit or frozen fruit. 

Raspberry Bran Muffins
Adapted from Classic Bran Muffins on Allrecipes.

1 1/2 c Wheat Bran
1 c Buttermilk (or 4 Tbsp Dried Buttermilk & 1 c Water)
1/3 c vegetable oil
1 egg
2/3 c brown sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 c AP Flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 c frozen raspberries

Pre-heat the oven to 375 degrees. Mix the Wheat Bran and Buttermilk together and let sit 10 minutes. Add the oil, egg, sugar, and vanilla to the wheat bran mixture and mix until combined. Add all the dry ingredients and mix until combined. Fold in the raspberries. Scoop into a sprayed muffin pan (I used my 1 3/4oz ice cream scoop to make 24 mini muffins) and bake for 15 minutes.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Mexican Chicken Lasagna

So a few weeks ago I wanted to make classic Italian lasagna and as you do I went to the store and bought all the ingredients. And when I was in the pasta aisle looking for lasagna noodles (I thought of making it from scratch but laziness overwhelmed me!) and the Barilla no-cook lasagna noodles were on sale and looking at the small boxes I thought there was no way only one box would make one lasagna, so of course I bought four boxes. Low and behold, one box does in fact make a whole lasagna... So now I had an abundance of lasagna noodles and I was getting sick of regular old lasagna, so I decided to get creative and make a Mexican lasagna. I've been brainstorming all week on how to actually make it, and of course I didn't actually look up recipes that others have done, this is ALL me. At first I had thought of mixing all the ingredients into the sauce minus the noodles and cheese, then thought better of it. Lasagna is layered after all! 

I feel like this was pretty easy to make though it was a little time consuming making the chicken, however that is easy enough to throw in a crock pot on low or make it a day ahead. I personally poached it for a couple hours on the stove when I was dropping off the daycare dogs. And then to shred the chicken I threw it in my kitchen-aid mixer with the paddle mixer until it was perfectly shredded! Other than the chicken the rest of the lasagna is a breeze to make. Hope you enjoy it as much as we did!

Mexican Chicken Lasagna

2 large Chicken Breasts, shredded
3 cans black beans, drained
1 large can crushed tomatoes (28oz)
1 green pepper
1 red pepper
1 yellow onion
2-3 hot peppers (use whatever hot peppers you'd use normally for other stuff, it should be spicy)
2-3 cups Shredded Cheddar or Mexican Blend Cheese
1 box no-boil lasagna noodles

Cook the chicken either in a crock pot or on the stove with salt, pepper, chili powder, and paprika. Once cooked through and tender, drain, and either shred by hand or in a mixer.
Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees.
Chop the peppers and onion finely (I used my food processor to do it or you can use a knife...old school) and then saute in a large saucepan. When the veggies are soft add the crushed tomatoes and simmer for at least 10-15 minutes. 
In a large casserole dish layer first the sauce, then noodles, followed by chicken, beans and cheese. Top with noodles, sauce, chicken, beans, and cheese. Top with a final layer of noodles and sauce and cheese. Cover in aluminum foil and bake for 30 minutes. Remove foil and bake an additional 10 minutes or until the cheese is bubbly and nice looking.  
My final lasagna I was able to cut into 16 pieces. And it was DELICIOUS! Enjoy!

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Thai Peanut Chicken Wrap

So I make a mean peanut sauce. I use it for anything and everything. It started out as my go-to pad thai sauce that I created a couple years ago when I had to make pad thai for the first time in my life at work. Another instance where they made a menu where I didn't know how to make the main courses before the day of. And since then I've evolved it to be a multi-purpose peanut sauce that I use for stir fry, pad thai, or the occasional chicken wrap. This is literally one of the easiest sauce recipes out there and takes about 5 minutes to make. Another nice thing about it is that you can control the spiciness of it very easily just by slowly adding the Sriracha to it until it meets your spice level. And I tend to make a lot of the sauce and use it for a few meals as the week goes on, there is nothing in it that won't last a few weeks or more in the fridge so it's something you can make a bunch of and save for later.

I find when making the chicken wrap you need something nice and crunchy but flavorful to go with it as well, which is why I have an Asian slaw with it, another thing that's super easy to make if you already have made my Deviled Eggs with Pickled Onions since I take shredded cabbage and carrots and add the pickled onions and its juice to make the slaw.

Peanut Sauce
1 c Brown Sugar
1/2 c Sugar
1/3 c Fish Sauce
1/2 c Ketchup
1/2 c Peanut Butter
1/4 c lemon or lime juice
1/4 c vinegar (I use white distilled or cider)
TT Sriracha

Now you literally put everything in a sauce pan and turn the heat on medium to low and stir it up until its blended. It takes a whole 5 minutes. Once its blended I taste it and add more Sriracha as needed to spice it up a little. But make sure to just start with maybe 4 or 5 drops because that stuff gets hot quick! Then I take the finished sauce and spoon it onto cooked and sliced chicken, which I pre-make.

Then I take a half of a cabbage's worth of shredded cabbage and one shredded carrot and mix it with a small handful of the pickled onions I made earlier in the week and about a half cup or less of the pickling juice from the onions. I mix it up and let sit for 10 minutes or so, usually during the time I'm cooking chicken in the oven.

The nice thing about this recipe is that it can easily be made gluten free by instead of using whole wheat wraps like I did, you can use lettuce wraps, like Boston bibb, which not just makes it gluten free but also saves you a 100+ calories depending on the wrap you use. I hope you enjoy this as much as I do!

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Deviled Eggs with Pickled Onion

With Easter just around the corner we have all the obligatory food served (that I love). I pretty much love any holiday that is more centered around food than anything else. No wonder I'm overweight! At Easter my family does Deviled Eggs, Ham, and all the fixings that goes with all our holidays - potatoes, carrots, and breads. This year I'm not sure what exactly I'm doing but one thing I love no matter the time of the year are Deviled Eggs. There is just something about them that are awesome.

Now I decided that I wanted to make a different sort of Deviled eggs, and not what everyone and their mother does by making truffled Deviled Eggs, I've seen those at multiple places in Boston. So after thinking about it there aren't that many ingredients you have in this recipe that can be changed too greatly without taking away the essence that is Deviled Eggs. So I started with the mustard. There are so many varieties of mustard out there, Dijon  plain yellow, horseradish, Asian spicy mustard... hmmm Asian Spicy Mustard... What about a more Asian Deviled Eggs? Might just work... This is literally my thought process as I try coming up with a new recipe. Then I thought of what I might put on it without taking away from either the Asian aspect or Deviled Eggs aspect. Because other than having the Asian spicy mustard I wasn't going to veer far from the traditional recipe. That's when I thought of doing my Pickled Onions on top as the garnish.

Now Pickled Onions aren't necessarily Asian however I have incorporated it into Asian style dishes very easily by adding flavorings that blend well.  My Pickled Onion recipe you'll look at it and say "I don't see anything particularly Asian about this..." but my leftover Onions I will easily add to my Asian Slaw that will go in my Peanut Chicken Wrap later this week (most likely featured on my other blog Chef on a Diet). I guess you'll have to trust me and let me use my Artistic License!

Pickled Onions

1 Red Onion, sliced thinly
1/2 Jalapeno, sliced thinly
1 cup Red Wine Vinegar
1/4 cup Sugar
1/4 cup Salt
1 tsp Peppercorns

You'll want to do this the day before you need to use your pickled onions because they can be ready within a couple hours but they are at their best sitting in the liquid overnight if not longer. Combine everything but the Onion and Jalapeno and mix to combine, then add the Onion and Jalapeno to the liquid mixture, cover and let sit overnight in the refrigerator. Then they should look hot pink. Now I let them sit two days because life got in the way of me making the Deviled Eggs on the day I planned to, so mine got a bit spicier than I anticipated. The longer they sit the more the jalapenos blend with the onions.

Deviled Eggs

6 Hard Boiled Eggs (my method below)
2 Tbsp Mayonaise
1 packet Spicy Asian Mustard (from Chinese take-out)
4 dots of Sriracha
1/2 tsp Soy Sauce
1/2 tsp Pickled Onion liquid

To make Hard Boiled Eggs: put raw eggs in a saucepan and cover with cold water. Bring to a boil on high heat and once at a roaring boil turn a timer on for 3 minutes. Let boil until the timer goes off and remove from heat and immediately cover. Let sit covered for 6-7 minutes and once the time is up drain the hot water out and shock the eggs with ice water. Or what I do is run cold water on them in the pot for about 5 minutes and then throw them in the fridge. For this its easier to make the Deviled Egg mixture if the yolks are as well done as possible short of making them go green. Mine were done but not well done and it made it slightly difficult to mix it by hand, not impossible mind you, just difficult.

After they are cool, de-shell the eggs being careful not to break them apart. Cut the eggs in half and remove the yolk into a bowl and set the egg whites aside. Combine the remaining ingredients into the bowl with the yolks (you can also use a food processor if you have one otherwise use a fork). Stir until they are nice and smooth. If you have a piping bag use that to squirt the yolk mixture back into the egg white cups, if not put it in a ziploc bag and then cut the tip of a corner off and squeeze the yolk mixture that way.

Garnish with a couple pickled onions and jalapeno and voila! you have Deviled Eggs! Enjoy!