Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Slow-cooked Turkey Chili

Warm, comforting, filling, and nutritious! What's not to love about chili? Here is another reason to love it: Easy! Over the years, I have tried many chili recipes and they have often fallen short of my expectations... That is, until I tried this one! As many of you know, I have rekindled my love affair with my slow cooker since giving birth to my second child. I just love the simplicity of using my slow cooker while I go about my daily routine with my girls. Arriving home after a play date or errands and smelling the aroma of dinner safely simmering in my kitchen is a wonderful treat!
This chili is my own adaptation of the chili recipe found in my slow cooker cookbook. The original recipe calls for ground beef, which I have used, but decided to lighten things up a bit and use lean ground turkey this time. The result was delicious! I also added more beans than the original recipe calls for both to increase the nutritiousness of the meal and because my toddler LOVES beans. The recipe posted below reflects the additional beans. We enjoyed our turkey chili with reduced-fat cheddar cheese (1/4 cup for 2 PointsPlus) and light sour cream (2 tablespoons for 1 PointsPlus). We also had tortilla chips on the side. I hope you enjoy this simple, delicious and nutritious meal as much as my family did. This has become my "go to" recipe for turkey chili and I am so happy to have discovered it!

Slow-cooked Turkey Chili
Servings: 12
PointsPlus per serving: 8

1/2 pound dry pinto beans
1/2 pound dry red kidney beans
3- 14.5 ounces cans diced tomatoes, undrained
2 pounds ground turkey, browned and drained
1 green pepper, chopped
1 red pepper, chopped
1 large onion, chopped
3-4 cloves garlic, minced
3 tablespoons chili powder
1 1/2 teaspoons pepper
1 1/2 teaspoons cumin
1 1/2 teaspoons salt

Completely soften beans by cooking in boiling water on the stove. Drain the water off of the beans. Put all ingredients into the slow cooker in the order listed and stir. Cover and cook on LOW for 10 to 12 hours or on HIGH for 5 to 6 hours. Stir before serving.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Split Pea and Ham Soup

We had some leftover ham from the other night, so I decided to make some split pea soup. I found this great recipe on the Weight Watchers website, and only made a few changes. I used all fat-free chicken broth for the liquid, rather than two cups of broth and two cups of water. Also, I omitted the shredded cheddar that they called for topping the soup with. It just didn't seem to "go". We topped ours with oyster crackers instead, which only added one point per serving. This soup turned out great and the whole family loved it. Will definitely make it again soon! 

Split Pea and Ham Soup
Servings: 8
PointsPlus: 6 (for one cup serving)

1 pound dry split peas, picked over, rinsed, and drained 

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Baked Mostaccioli

Some of you might understand this and others might not, but, having a mother who is of Italian decent, I have always felt conflicted about revamping any traditional Italian recipes to be more healthy and less fattening. By this, I mean I feel guilty straying from the recipes and cooking methods that mother has taught me. I am learning day by day that lighter versions of classic recipes can be just as delicious and, often, more satisfying because there is not the excess fat and calories to weigh you down. This baked mostaccioli dish is essentially and lightened-up version of baked ziti. This recipe uses healthier ingredients, such as ground turkey in place of beef and cottage cheese in place of ricotta cheese, without sacrificing any of the flavor and texture that I love about baked ziti. A perfect win in my book!

Baked Mostaccioli
Servings: 6
PointsPlus per serving: 7 (1 1/3 cups servings)

8 ounces uncooked mostaccioli or penne pasta
1/2 pound lean ground turkey
1 small onion, chopped
1 can (14.5 ounces) diced tomatoes, undrained
1 can (6 ounces) tomato paste
1/3 cup water
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
2 cups (16 ounces) fat-free cottage cheese
1 teaspoon dried marjoram
1 1/2 cups (6 ounces) shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Cook mostaccioli according to package directions. Meanwhile, in a large saucepan, cook turkey and onion over medium heat until meat is no longer pink; drain.
Stir in tomatoes, tomato paste, water, oregano, salt, and pepper. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cover and simmer for 15 minutes.
In a small bowl, combine cottage cheese and marjoram; set aside. Drain mostaccioli.
Spread 1/2 cup meat sauce into an 11-inch x 7-inch baking dish coated with cooking spray. Layer with half of the mostaccioli, meat sauce, and mozzarella cheese. Top with cottage cheese mixture. Layer with remaining mostaccioli, meat sauce, and mozzarella cheese. Sprinkle with parmesan cheese (dish will be full).
Bake, uncovered, at 350 degrees for 30-40 minutes or until bubbly and heated through.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

French Onion Soup

French Onion soup has long been a favorite of mine. When my friend, Liz, raved about this recipe from Weight Watchers themselves, I knew I needed to try it. And lo and behold, it was amazing! I made it mid-day and simmered it for about 5 hours. It was so savory and delicious!

We have lots of cold days still ahead of us this winter, so warm up with this great soup!

The recipe calls for topping with grated parmesan cheese, but I decided to add an extra point by melting a slice of Sargento ultra-thin provolone on top of each bowl. I just popped my oven-safe soup crocks in the oven for a few minutes, until the cheese was bubbly and slightly browned. Served with a side salad, and voila, dinner!

Monday, January 28, 2013

Slow-cooker Chicken Corn Chowder

A few months ago, I asked my friends on Facebook for their recommendations on slow-cooker recipes. As a busy mother of two young girls, my slow-cooker has become one of my favorite kitchen appliances. I find it so satisfying to put together a recipe, turn the cooker on, go about my day with my  children, and come back to a delicious meal. What is not to love about that? Anyway, a friend shared the following chicken corn chowder recipe with me and I am so glad that she did! It was delicious, filling, hearty, and, best of all, not excessively fattening. I made a few modifications by using some turkey bacon for additional flavor and the result was awesome. What I also love about this recipe is that it can be extremely versatile: You can leave out the chicken, bacon, and use vegetable broth, and have a vegetarian (and lower PointsPlus) meal.  Serve with a side salad and some whole grain bread and I promise that you will feel good about eating this delicious chowder!

Slow-cooker Chicken Corn Chowder
Servings: 16
PointsPlus per serving: 6 (1 cup serving)

6 ounces turkey bacon (I used Jennie-O brand)
1 large onion, chopped
2 cups chopped celery
2 cups chopped carrots
1 cup chopped green pepper
1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts, chopped
2- 15 ounces cans corn kernels, drained
3- 15 ounces cans diced potatoes, drained
4 cups fat-free chicken broth
1- 12 ounces can fat-free evaporated milk
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 cup fat-free half-and-half

Cook turkey in a large skillet until crisp, crumble, and set aside. Drain drippings and coat skillet with cooking spray. Saute onion and celery until tender and set aside. Saute chicken in cooking spray.
Combine bacon, vegetables, potatoes, and chicken in the slow-cooker. Pour chicken broth over ingredients. Cover and cook on LOW for 4-5 hours.
Add evaporated milk to slow-cooker. Dissolve cornstarch in half-and-half and add to slow-cooker. Stir, cover, and cook for 30 minutes on HIGH or until thickened.

Chewy Granola Bars

My life as a stay-at-home mother is busy and stressful at times, but I wouldn't change it for the world. I get to spend my days watching my children learn, grow, and thrive under my care and this is truly the most fulfilling phase of my life so far. Part of what makes our days different and fun is having the ability to interact with other children and mothers on a regular basis  through play-dates, events, and gatherings. These gatherings can quickly become a Weight Watchers' mine field filled with sugary treats. These items are not good for the mommies or the kiddos, so I have been striving to find healthy and satisfying substitutions. These homemade chewy granola bars fit the bill, were simple to prepare, called for basic pantry staples, and I know that I will be making them again and again! Have fun with the ingredients (i.e. leaving out chocolate or raisins, changing the type of nuts, or using other fun, but nutritious ingredients). Be sure to adjust the PointsPlus values accordingly, though. Enjoy!

Chewy Granola Bars
Servings: 24
PointsPlus per serving: 5

1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons honey
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 egg
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups quick-cooking oats
1 1/4 cups crisp rice cereal
1 cup chopped nuts (I used almonds)
1 cup raisins or semisweet chocolate chips (I used a half cup of each)

In a large bowl, cream butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Add the honey, vanilla, and egg; mix well. Combine the flour, cinnamon, baking powder, and salt; gradually add to creamed mixture. Stir in oats, cereal, nuts, raisins, and chocolate chips.
Press into a 13-inch x 9-inch baking pan coated with cooking spray. Bake at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes or until the top is lightly browned. Cool on a wire rack. Cut into bars.

Chocolate Ganache Cake

Ah, chocolate! For the better part of the first three decades of my life, I could take it or leave it. During my first pregnancy three years ago, I developed a fierce sweet tooth and it is still hard for me to satisfy it. While following Weight Watchers, I try to keep an arsenol and deliciously sweet recipes to help me through my cravings. This chocolate ganache cake recipe will certiainly become a favorite! It has it all: Great texture, wonderful flavor, and, best of all, a low PointsPlus value! The orange extract brightens the flavors up and really accentuates the richness of the semisweet chocolate. Go ahead and indulge in this amazing cake! I brought ours to my in-laws as an after-dinner treat. We enjoyed it with some light whipped topping and fresh strawberries. Children and adults alike devoured this scrumptious dessert!

Chocolate Ganache Cake
Servings: 12
PointsPlus per serving: 5

2 ounces 53% cacao dark baking chocolate, coarsely chopped
2 tablespoons butter
3/4 cup boiling water
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup buttermilk (*you can make your own by adding a teaspoon of white vinegar to regular milk)
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon orange extract
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt

3 ounces 53% cacao dark baking chocolate, coarsely chopped
1/4 cup half-and-half cream

Place chocolate and butter in a large bowl; add boiling water and stir until smooth. Stir in sugar, buttermilk, egg, and extracts. Combine the flour, baking soda, and salt; beat into chocolate mixture just until blended.
Transfer to a 9-inch round baking pan coated with cooking spray. Bake at 350 degrees for 18-22 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes before removing from pan to a wire rack to cool completely. Place rack on  a waxed paper lined baking sheet.
For ganache, place chocolate in a small bowl. In a small saucepan, bring cream to just a boil. Pour over chocolate; whisk until smooth. Cool for 10 minutes or until slightly thickened.
Slowly pour ganache over cake, allowing some ganache to drape over the sides. Refrigerate until serving. Cut into wedges.