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.