Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Culinary Curiosities #3

Apologies for the delay in posting, but with a hit and a miss last week, I felt we should combine the previous culinary escapade with this week's recipes.  Also this week, I'm celebrating a personal goal of having lost over 50 lbs!  Yay!  And Melissa is well on her way!

For this post, we tested four recipes in total, three from Lisa Lillien's 'Hungry Girl: 200 Under 200' recipe book, and one from Weight Watcher's 'Take-Out Tonight!'.

Sweet 'N Chunky Chicken Salad (Hungry Girl)

Sweet, creamy, and delicious!  This chicken salad is very easy to make, and it's great by itself or on a sandwich.  Thumbs up for versatility.

Ingredients: lean chicken breast, cucumber, red grapes, apples, fat-free yogurt, fat-free mayo, Splenda, lemon-pepper seasoning, salt
(yields 2 servings)

Easy as can be.  Chop up the ingredients and mix together.  You can, of course, eat it right away, but we let ours sit for a few hours to let all of the yummy flavors combine.  I'm not afraid to admit that I scarfed mine down at dinnertime and enjoyed every bite!

And half of the recipe, one serving, is only 145 calories.  Huzzah!


Fluffy Lemon Squares (Hungry Girl)

Unfortunately, these were not as successful.  The flavor was there, but the texture ended up being... a little odd.

Crust: Fiber One bran cereal, light butter, Splenda
Filling: Fat-free liquid egg substitute, white sugar, whole-wheat flour, lemon juice, lemon zest, and baking powder
(yields 9 servings)

Certainly easy enough to make.  Mix crust ingredients together and bake.  Mix filling, add to crust, and bake again.

Our verdict?  The filling was tasty - zesty and fresh, but the crust was just too soft, breadlike.  The whole-wheat also seemed to add a strange texture.  It had a lot of potential, but didn't live up to expectations.  Melissa and I think it may work better with a low-fat graham cracker crust instead.

Calories for one square: 121.  For the same amount of calories, you can get a real, though slightly smaller, lemon bar from Starbucks.


Shrimp-and-Pork Wontons (Weight Watchers)

These are sooo tasty and sooo fun to make!

Ingredients: pork, shrimp, low-sodium soy sauce, hoisin sauce, dark sesame oil, cornstarch, garlic, green onions, and wonton wraps
(yields 40 wontons)

Very straight-forward. Finely chop the pork and shrimp, probably the most difficult step, and mix in the other ingredients.  Add 1/2 tablespoon to one wonton wrapper, apply water to the edges, and fold-up into a little purse shape.  Repeat 40 times.

If you don't want to cook them right away, you just need to store them under a damp paper towel.  Make sure to put cornstarch on the pan, so they don't stick.  Once you're ready to eat them, boil them twenty at a time.  Once the dumplings float to the top, they're done.

We paired ours with a low-calorie dipping sauce made from left over green onions and low-sodium soy sauce. These were incredibly delicious from the first bite to the last.

And one wonton is only 35 calories, so it's very easy to count how many you need for your food budget.


104-Calorie Crème Brûlée (Hungry Girl)

Oh my goodness, you must try this!  Never in our lives did we think that crème brûlée could be this low-calorie and this sumptuous.  Wow, were we wrong!  The cookbook informed us that this recipe was developed with a crème brûlée expert... that must be why it tastes so out-of-this-world.

Ingredients: fat-free egg substitute, fat-free half&half, Splenda, sugar, brown sugar, vanilla extract, fat-free evaporated milk, sugar-free vanilla powdered creamer
(yields 4 servings)

We ended up doing a double-batch, because I knew I'd want to have left-overs for my family to try.  (The Moys are huge crème brûlée fans and also give their seal of approval to this recipe.)  

The preparation is the same as normal crème brûlée.  You prepare the custard mixture, then separate it into four ramekins, or eight in our case.  Fill the pans halfway with water, and bake the crème brûlées in the water bath.  

Next, they have to cool for a few hours. Once you're ready to eat them, sprinkle a teaspoon of sugar on top and break out the butane torch to carmelize!  (We used a broiler, but I highly recommend a torch - it's much faster and more effective.)

The result was heavenly: 104 calories of sweet, creamy bliss.  It doesn't get better than this.


Stay tuned for our next installment.  We'll include a re-vamped, low-cal shepherd's pie and some frozen s'more treats!

Thanks for reading!

*Dishes are rated out of five spoons on taste, creativity, and ease of preparation.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Low-Cal Culinary Curiosities #2

This Wednesday, Melissa and I tested a few recipes from Lisa Lillien's 'Hungry Girl: 200 Under 200' recipe book, as well as made a mostly-successful attempt at an original recipe for low-calorie cake balls.

EZ Tomato-Basil Chicken

The emphasis is definitely on easy with this recipe.
With three simple ingredients, this dish is very simple to make and delicious to boot.

Ingredients: 12 lean chicken breast tenders (1lb.), a can of crushed tomatoes with basil, and thinly sliced onions
(yields 4 servings)

So simple.  Preheat the oven, brown the onions, and layer the ingredients in a pan.  Thirty minutes later, a very flavorful and moist chicken dish.  And the final calorie total for a serving of three tenders and a generous helping of onions and sauce is only 175 calories!

That calorie total left plenty of room for us to pair it with the most deliciously low-cal mashed potato dish I've ever had.


Miracle Mashies

These are nothing short of incredible.  For someone like me, who has really missed her mashed potatoes while dieting, these are really worth a try!

Ingredients: one large potato, three cups cauliflower florets, fat-free half & half, light butter, salt, pepper, and crushed garlic.
(yields 5 servings)

Very straight-forward to prepare--the same process as regular mashed potatoes, only you use mostly cauliflower.  Peel, chop, boil, drain, add add-ins, and mash.

Going in, we weren't sure what to expect for taste or texture; however, Melissa and I can assure you that these taste like real mashed potatoes.  There's nothing funny about the texture or the flavor.  In my opinion, they're even better than regular mashed potatoes, because I can eat more of them without feeling guilty!

The final calorie count: one serving (about 2/3 of a cup) of these 'miracle mashies' is only 82 calories!

The final pairing
For a point of comparison, typical mashed potatoes are about 150 calories for that same amount, depending on the amount of milk and fat. And on top of that, these potatoes are freaking tasty! I couldn't wait to share these with my potato-loving family.


Low-Cal Strawberry Cake Balls

These came out a bit sticky (easily solved with a toothpick), but incredibly tasty.

Cake: strawberry cake mix, two egg whites, 8oz. diet 7UP
Frosting: 1c. strawberry slices, 3/8c. splenda, 1c. fat-free cream cheese
Glaze: confectioner's sugar, water, vanilla, sprinkles

Super easy to make, but a little time-consuming.  To make the cake part of the cake ball, simply follow the instructions on the box, but instead of adding eggs, oil, etc., use a couple egg whites and some diet soda.

For the frosting, instead of using a tub of pre-packaged icing, we made our own.  I mixed 1 cup of chopped strawberries with 1/4 cup of Splenda and let that sit over night.  The next day, I mixed the strawberries in a blender with 1 cup of fat-free cream cheese and added and additional 1/8 cup of Splenda.

When the cake was done, we mixed it together with the strawberry frosting mixture.  Once mixed together into a moldable dough, I rolled the mix into about 75 balls (about 1 inch in diameter).

At this point, the calorie-count for a plain cake ball, with no glaze, is 31 calories. The topping is where you could add a lot of calories.  I decided to go for a 'donut-hole' feel and created a sticky confectioner's sugar glaze.  You simply mix powdered sugar with a little water and a little vanilla, coat each ball, set it on a rack to drip, and top with sprinkles.  This gets rid of any excess glaze and ultimately adds only around 10 more calories.  Of course, if you don't mind the extra calories, you could coat these with dark chocolate as a fun option.  Whatever your coating, we've given you an easy way to cut calories in the ball itself.

Extremely yummy for 42 calories, but pretty sticky.  These definitely received Bailey's seal of approval--she's still asking about them!


We end with an amusing exchange with Bailey yesterday:
Melissa: "I've lost 20 pounds!"
Bailey: "You did?  Where did they go?  I'll help you find them, Mommy!"

*Dishes are rated out of five spoons on taste, creativity, and ease of preparation.

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