Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Cheesecake Treats:flavor without all the calories!

I really like dessert but the fact is that I've enjoyed too many desserts in my life. But to forfeit something sweet as I undertake losing weight isn't really an option for me either. This is a lifestyle change, so I have to rethink the treat and the quantity I can have.  Some people can handle a thimble-full of something and be satisfied but not me! I started playing with recipes that might offer me a proper, full-sized snack without putting the breaks on my weight loss.  I love the Cherry Cheese-pie recipe for just these reasons. Playing off this recipe, I wondered how to add flavor without the calories.  It hit me when I was adding a flavor packet to my water!  Yep, zero calories (well, most are) and lots of yummy taste - the perfect combo.  
What you need:
8 ounces Cream Cheese (I use fat free)
16 ounces Cool Whip Topping (I use fat free here also)
16 ounce drink flavor packets (I use 2 for great flavor)
1 Tablespoon Sweetener (I use Truvia)

Putting it together:
Allow your cream cheese to soften and thaw the whipped topping.  Select your favorite flavoring. Mix all the ingredients together until they are a smooth mixture.  Chill until it firms up again.

I like to put this on Graham Cracker squares for a really tasty treat with a bit of crunch.  I also add some fresh fruit to compliment the selected cheesecake flavor.  

Thoughts:  Put this in your choice of crust just before serving. Serve chilled. I think this would make a lovely parfait if you alternate the cheesecake, Graham Cracker crumbs and fresh fruit. Adjust the level of flavor by adding or subtracting the number of drink packets you use.  I'd use confectioner's sugar as the sweetener if you don't want to use artificial. Mixing the ingredients with a mixer on high helps reduce a sensation of 'crystals' in the cheesecake. 

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Enchilada Cube Steak

I really like cooking with cube steak beef cutlets.  They allow for easy portioning, are fairly lean, can be prepared in a number of ways and lend themselves to cooking creative, easy meals.  I've already shared my Italian Meat Patties and Swiss (Mock) Steak recipes last year. I have another recipe to share today for Mexican Cube Steaks. Like my previous recipes using cube steak, the longer you leave this in the oven, the tenderer the meat and greater the flavor.
What you need:
Beef Cube Steaks
Hatch Green Chile Enchilada Sauce
Ro-tel Original Diced Tomatoes and Green Chiles
Corn (I like using corn on the cob)
Shredded Cheese

Putting it together:
Shuck the corn, removing as much of the silk as possible.  Place the cube steak in a single layer in an oven proof pan.  Pour the green chile sauce over the meat, then pour the Ro-tel over the sauce. Place the corn around the cube steaks. Cover the pan and place in a 350 degree oven.  I allow this to cook for an hour, minimum.  If you have more time, go ahead and leave it in the oven.  If you like cheese, add it to your enchilada cube steak just before you serve your meal.
I've lost nearly 50 pounds, so I wanted a recipe with great enchilada flavor but without the carbs. If you aren't watching your weight, you may want to prepare some tortillas to enjoy when you plate up your meal.

Sunday, August 3, 2014


Most of you know that I have a passion for knitting - lace items in particularly.  This pattern has become a favorite among all that I've knitted. It is Spire by Leila Raabe who designed it for Brooklyn Tweed. 
The yarn was a new brand for me to knit with - Northbound Knitting Superwash BFL Fingering - but I already have plans to purchase more next week when I visit The Tinsmith's Wife, in Comfort, Texas.  It knits up beautifully and worked out awesomely well for this wrap.  I was able to purchase 3 skeins of Midnight colorway and one of Nocturne. 

I decided to work the darker colors first and work my way out to the lightest at the edge.  It very nearly worked out perfectly, except that I was shy about 4 inches of the Nocturne in completing the lace border and had to revert to the darker colorway to finish the project. It really isn't as noticeable as my intentional photo shows but rather it blends beautifully due to the fabulous dyeing of this company.  I have about 80 hours of knitting in my Spire.  It blocked out to 56" square and used nearly 1750 yards of yarn.  

Of note, this is also one of the first patterns I've knit and allowed myself to be the model.  I have recently lost over 45 pounds (Weight Watchers and lots of walking!) and am just now getting comfortable with being photographed.  My husband, Kelly, is the photographer for all photos where I'm modeling the shawl.  

Friday, July 25, 2014

Let's Salsa!

I love the fresh taste of salsa. Throw in a few peppers and increase the heat to your favorite level, customizing this tasty way to get some veggies in your diet.  I prefer my salsa on the warm side but others in my family like a sweeter version.  Here is my recipe with a few suggestions to adjust the taste to suit your taste-buds.  Another big thank you to local gardeners for the fabulous tomatoes!

What you need:
Jalapeno Peppers
Salt (optional)
Sugar (optional)

How to put it together:

Prepare the tomatoes, washing well, removing the tops and any bad spots, then cutting into halves or quarters. Prepare your peppers.  The more seeds and membrane you remove, the sweeter the pepper flavor.  I tend to leave 1/2 for what I consider a medium to mild taste. Peel your garlic, using as much as you prefer.  I used 2 large heads for about 15 cups of salsa. Remove the skin from onions, peel and cut into easily managed pieces.

Fill your food processor with the following proportions: nearly 3/8 full of tomatoes, 1/4 with onions, 1/4 with peppers and 1/8 with cilantro.  Just grab a handful of cilantro tops, twisting the entire clump off the base stems (I discard the stems).  Squeeze in the juice from half a fresh lime. Pulse these items until they reach the consistency you like - chunky to nearly liquid - and taste.  You may want to add a pinch of salt or up to a tablespoon of sugar depending on how you like your salsa. Adjust the veggies to taste also.  Need more heat - add more peppers or leave the membrane and seeds in more.  Reduce the amount of onion you use (or omit the onion totally) to avoid some of the bitter zing they can add, or use a sweeter yellow onion.

I make up lots of this salsa when I have an abundance of tomatoes.  I put a cup or so into a plastic bag, remove as much air as I can and freeze them to enjoy in my recipes, especially my 5 minute taco soup recipe where I substitute this for store-bought, for a really quick meal.  

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Beer Bread

This is a really quick, last-minute bread fix as you prepare your dinner.  It's taste is wonderful, enhanced by the yeasty flavor of beer which is used as the leavening agent.  As for prep - it couldn't be easier or quicker!  It will take more time to bake than prepare this versatile bread. You can make it as full-sized muffins but I prefer to make mini-muffins or even just drop biscuits as the baking time is a little longer than a basic biscuit.  

What you need:

Bisquick Mix: 3 cups
Beer (yes, light and non-alcoholic work): 12 ounces
Sugar: 3 Tablespoons

Mix it all together and place on a sprayed (even if it's a non-stick pan!) cookie sheet or muffin tin.  I used a mini-muffin tin which made 24 two-bite marvels.  Put into a 375 degree oven and bake for approximately 12 minutes, or until a tester comes out clean.  These muffins tend not to brown much so you need to test to determine when they are done. This is a light bread which can easily fall apart when hot. Remove from the oven and run a knife around each muffin (if using a muffin tin) to release edges and release from the pan, allowing to cool on a rack - or serve hot!