Potato Chips

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Once upon a time (about a week ago), I though making potato chips at home was hard. For some reason I assumed it included either frying the potatoes or baking them in the oven at a low temperature for a long time. I thought I wouldn’t be able to cut the potatoes thin enough without a very sharp knife or a mandolin. I was so wrong. So, so wrong.

This is the easiest recipe I could ever post – it’s so easy it might not even be considered a recipe. It’s almost easier than opening a bag of store bought potato chips. And you can add whatever seasonings you want!

Please, please (I beg you), try this for the Super Bowl this weekend. Your friends will be extremely impressed and you’ll never buy a bag of potato chips again.

Potato Chips

Preheat oven to 400 degrees and spray a baking sheet with cooking spray. Slice 1 russet potato into 1/8 inch slices and arrange on baking sheet in a single layer. Sprinkle with ½ teaspoon salt and ½ teaspoon pepper. Bake in the oven for 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and flip over. Bake in 5 minute increments, removing chips as they brown, until all of the chips are cooked.

Yield: 2 servings. Per Serving: $0.52, 82 calories, 0g fat, 24g carbs, 1g protein.

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Mac & Cheese Bites

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Chicken wings, buffalo sauce, and potato chips are flying off the grocery store shelves this week – the Super Bowl is just under a week away. I’m not a huge football fan (and the Patriots are out of the running) but I love any opportunity to get friends together to enjoy good company and good food. In honor of the Super Bowl, I’ll be sharing two party-friendly dishes this week in an effort to prove that you don’t have to succumb to the usual greasy, fattening snacks to please the crowd and have a good time.

These baked mac and cheese bites are healthy and budget friendly at just 50 cents per serving. You could, of course, use any homemade mac and cheese recipe for these, but I’ve saved calories by swapping tofu for some of the cheese. You won’t be able to tell a difference and the creamy tofu adds protein. Put those chicken wings back on the shelf and whip up these instead!

Mac & Cheese Bites

 

Cook 2 cups whole wheat elbow macaroni according to package directions. Sauté ½ cup diced onion in 1 tablespoon butter until soft. Stir in 1 tablespoon of flour and cook, stirring frequently, for 1 minute. Add ½ cup of milk and ¾ cup silken tofu and simmer until the mixture thickens, about 6 minutes. Season with ½ teaspoon salt and ½ teaspoon pepper. Add 1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese and macaroni. Chill in refrigerator at least 1 hour, preferably overnight.

Set up three bowls, one with ½ cup flour, one with 2 beaten eggs, and one with 2 cups panko breadcrumbs. Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Remove mac and cheese from refrigerator and form into balls using an ice cream scoop. Roll in flour, dip in egg, and roll in bread crumbs. Place the prepared bites on a cookie drying rack on top of a baking pan. Bake for 20 minutes until golden brown. Serve with marinara sauce.

Yield: 16 servings. Serving size: 1 bite. Per Serving: $0.50, 170 calories, 5g fat, 25g carbs, 7g protein.

Oven Baked Pancake

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Pancakes are a go-to weekend breakfast. When I was a kid, my dad made us the most delicious blueberry pancakes. They were golden and fluffy, about half an inch thick, and we’d cover them in butter and maple syrup.  When someone else is making pancakes, I’m all for them. But I tend to opt for other recipes when I’m the one wearing the apron.

Compared to other breakfast items, pancakes are a pretty big ordeal. You have to make the batter, heat up the pan, pour each pancake individually, keep an eye on them to make sure they don’t burn, flip them over at just the right time so they aren’t undercooked, and then repeat this process multiple times (especially if you’re using a relatively small pan). That’s a lot to ask of me on a weekend morning.

Instead, I prefer this oven-baked pancake – a super easy recipe with very few ingredients that you slide in the oven and forget about for 20 minutes. Often referred to as a Dutch oven pancake, this dish is the perfect alternative to traditional pancakes and will totally impress your friends or roommates. It’s also made with more eggs than flour (the opposite of a traditional pancake) so it’s better for you!

Oven Baked Pancake

Heat oven to 450 degrees. Put 5 tablespoons butter in a large, oven safe pan or pie dish. Place in oven to preheat and melt butter. Whisk 6 eggs until light and fluffy. Add 1 cup flour, 1 cup milk, and ¼ teaspoon cinnamon, and whisk until combined. Add to pan and bake in oven for 20 minutes, until puffy and golden. Sprinkle with 1 tablespoon powdered sugar and serve with sliced strawberries.

Yield: 4 servings. Per Serving: $.90, 323 calories, 22g fat, 18g carbs, 12g protein.

True Tomato Soup

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I love the true flavor of tomatoes – in the summer when they are at their peak, I eat them like apples. They are tangy and salty and sweat and acidic – all good things. Although I love a creamy tomato soup as much as the next person, I wanted a soup that really highlighted the true flavor of the tomato. The creaminess in tomato soup often comes from cream or milk, which can add unnecessary calories.

The combination of whole, canned tomatoes and a few fresh tomatoes brings a fresh tomato flavor to this soup. Here, I used roasted garlic, but you could use fresh garlic if you prefer (just use less). Roasting brings sweetness out of the garlic, which balances the acidity of the tomato.  This could be served warm or chilled as a gazpacho.

True Tomato Soup

Roast 1 head garlic in advance (cover in wrap in aluminum foil, drizzle with olive oil, and bake at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for 45 minutes). Bring a small pot of water to a low boil and add 2 beefsteak tomatoes, whole. When the skin begins to peel off, remove from heat and rinse in cold water. Peel off the skin and cut into quarters.

Sauté 1 cup diced onion in 1 teaspoon olive oil. When the onions are translucent, add 4 cloves roasted garlic and sauté for 1 additional minute. Add a 28 ounce can whole peeled tomatoes including the juice, the blanched beefsteak tomatoes, and 3 cups chicken broth. Bring to a boil and reduce to simmer for 10 minutes.

Remove soup from heat and blend until smooth (I prefer to use a hand blender, but you can use a regular blender as well). Return to medium heat and add 1 teaspoon salt and ½ teaspoon sugar. Serve warm or chilled.

Yield: 4 servings. Serving size: 2 cups. Per Serving: $2.06, 100 calories, 2g fat, 17g carbs, 4g protein.

Garlic Carrot Soup

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Remember this carrot soup from a few months ago? Well it’s back!

As I do with all of my soups, I froze a few portions of this when I made it back in October. For the first time, I froze a condensed version of the soup and reheated it on the stove with an equal amount of water. It worked really well and was actually easier to reheat with the added water. Honestly I wish I had made this soup the first time – it’s delicious! Made even more beautiful by the lovely new dishes my Mom bought me for Christmas – thanks, Mom!

Garlic Carrot Soup

Reheat or prepare carrot soup. Cook ¼ cup farro according to package directions. Slice a ciabatta roll in half. Slice a garlic clove in half and rub the cut side on the inside of the roll. Drizzle the roll with ½ teaspoon olive oil and a pinch of sea salt. Broil in the oven for about 5 minutes, checking frequently, until brown. Slice the garlic into thin slices and sauté in ½ teaspoon olive oil until brown. Top the soup with the farro, garlic chips, and cilantro and serve with the toasted ciabatta roll.

Yield: 1 serving. Serving size: 2 cups. Per Serving: $2.96, 487 calories, 9g fat, 93g carbs, 18g protein.

Best Meal of 2013

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December really threw me for a loop. Between Thanksgiving, traveling for work, a mini vacation, and Christmas, I felt like I was barely home. When I was home, work was busy and I never found time to go to the grocery store. So I ended up eating out (or at a hotel) almost every night this month.

Even when I went home for Christmas my family ordered out. There are so many of us (I’m one of five) that it is almost impossible to please everyone. (I don’t know how my mom did it all those years!) The one night we decided to make something at home, the oven got stuck on cleaning mode, got really, really, really hot, and then died. Woof.

Although I love spending time with my family, I was so happy to come back to Boston and get back into my routine. That’s why this egg sandwich gets my vote for best meal of 2013. It’s very simple – an over easy egg with parmesan cheese, sliced tomato, and cilantro on a sliced ciabatta roll with Dijon mustard – but it’s the first meal I’ve cooked for myself since before Thanksgiving.

I was a little afraid that a month of eating out had killed my cooking mojo – but all it took was a trip to the grocery store and some time at home and I’m back to normal! Reflecting on the past year, what was your best meal?

Have a happy, healthy New Year’s celebration!

Pomegranate Greek Salad

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I often say that soup is the winter equivalent of a salad. If prepared correctly, a vegetable-based soup can be as healthy, light, and nutritious as a bright summer salad. However, salads themselves can be great in winter time too, with a few tweaks.

Make a salad winter-ready by adding seasonal veggies and a warm element. Here, I added pomegranate seeds pearled couscous. You could try another grain – like quinoa or faro – but I prefer the doughy, soft texture of the pearled couscous. Seeding a pomegranate can be a pain, but it’s always worth it.

Pomegranate Greek Salad

Cook 1 package pearled couscous according to package directions. Top 2 cups mixed greens with 1/3 cup cooked couscous, 5 diced olive, 2 ounces cubed feta cheese, ¼ cup diced cucumber and ¼ cup pomegranate seeds. Dress with 1 tablespoon Italian dressing.

Yield: 1 serving. Per Serving: $3.89, 493 calories, 22g fat, 59g carbs, 14g protein.

Thanksgiving Round-Up

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I feel a little guilty for not posting more Thanksgiving-themed recipes this week. Thanksgiving is like the Olympics of food events and I feel like I’m not doing it justice! I had every intention of sharing something new for your Thanksgiving feast. Last week, I attempted to make pomegranate-glazed Brussels sprouts but failed. It was a good idea in concept, but the finished product was a strange brownish reddish green color and tasted pretty sour. It wasn’t pretty.

To make up for my lack turkey-inspired recipes, here are a few past recipes that would be perfect additions to your Thanksgiving dinner. Have a happy turkey day!

Thanksgiving Round-Up

  • Sriracha Kale Chips: Crisp up a head of kale while the turkey is in the oven. These are a great snack to have on hand while everyone is hanging (or helping) out before dinner.
  • Butternut Squash Soup: Try soup instead of mashed butternut squash – this would be a perfect appetizer before the main Thanksgiving meal.
  • Oven-Fried Tomatoes: Not a traditional side dish for Thanksgiving, but sure to be a welcome addition to the table.
  • Simple Apple Pie: A classic turkey day dessert – make sure to save some room!

Butternut Squash Soup

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My good friend Evan, who I grew up with, read my journal once. We were in middle school and he was over at my house and he snooped.  Unfortunately (for both of us), he happened to find an entry where I mentioned him… in not the nicest day. Luckily, we remained friends, but to this day Evan gives me a hard time about it – even though he’s the one who snooped!

Starting a blog is, in some ways, like sharing your journal with everyone. Evan and I are still traumatized from the one time he read something relatively harmless in my journal, and here I am sharing parts of my life with the entire internet. Granted, I get to pick and choose what you read about me (whereas my journal was meant to be private), but in some ways it feels similar.

So, to protect all of us, I’m going to keep some of my secrets to myself. For example, I’m keeping my signature Turkey Pot Pie recipe locked up, even though I’ll be making it for Friendsgiving this weekend (more to come on that next week). It’s not even a good fit for CLK (too time intensive and not healthy enough), but even if it was, it’s special to me so I’m going to keep it under wraps.

I’m still not so sure about sharing this secret with you, but I’m going for it. I’m about to reveal my secret for making any type of soup. It’s a fool proof recipe. It’s actually less of a recipe than it is an equation. It boils down to:

Liquid + Vegetable + Protein = Soup

The proportions depend on how you like your soup. If you like a thicker soup (such as chowder), add more vegetable and less liquid. The protein can be blended into the soup, mixed in to the soup, served on the side, or right on top. Confused? Here are some pieces to make the puzzle come together:

  • Liquids: any variety of broth or stock (chicken, beef, vegetable, seafood), water, or milk
  • Vegetables: asparagus, squash, tomatoes, potatoes, corn… anything your heart desires
  • Protein: for blending: any type of bean or silken tofu; for mixing: quinoa, faro, or other whole grains; on the side: chicken, beef, or shrimp; on top: quinoa, cheese, or more beans.

You can combine more than one vegetable or liquid to come up with the best balance for you. Trust me, this is fool proof. For this recipe, I used water and chicken broth for the liquid, onions and butternut squash for the vegetable, and quinoa on top as my protein. Let me know what combinations you come up with and keep my secret safe!

Butternut Squash Soup

Cook ½ cup dry quinoa according to package directions. In a large saucepan, sauté 1 cup diced onion in 1 tablespoon butter. When the onions are translucent, add 3 cups diced butternut squash, 3 cups chicken broth, and 2 cups water. Bring to a boil, stirring frequently. Reduce heat to medium, cover, and simmer until squash is fork tender, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat and blend until smooth. Add ½ teaspoon salt.  Serve each portion topped with ¼ cup cooked quinoa. Yield: 3 servings. Serving size: 2 cups. Per Serving: $2.77, 148 calories, 1g fat, 33g carbs, 6g protein.

Green Mac & Cheese with Spinach & Peas

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Nachos, chocolate fondue, and this green mac and cheese were on the menu for a Halloween-themed gathering my roommates and I hosted at our apartment last week. The objective of the night was simple: get our favorite girlfriends together to eat, drink, and chat. The fact that it was Halloween was, frankly, unimportant and apparent only by the décor and Hocus Pocus playing in the background. Sometimes we need a simple excuse to get together in the same room to catch up and enjoy each other’s company. Sadly, it doesn’t happen often enough! The night was a success and this dish was the star of the menu – everyone kept going back for more!

Green Mac & Cheese

Cook 1 pound of pasta according to package directions. Meanwhile, sauté 1/2 cup onion in 1 tablespoon butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. When the onions are translucent, add a 6 ounce bag baby spinach and a 16 ounce bag frozen peas. Cook until spinach is wilted and peas are cooked through, stirring frequently.

Add 1/2 teaspoon salt and ½ teaspoon of pepper and reduce heat to low. Add 2 cups low-fat milk and heat until warm. Remove from heat and blend (preferably using a hand blender) the mixture until smooth.

Slowly add the pasta and 1.5 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese, stirring frequently to combine. Spray a 9×13 baking pan with cooking spray and head oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Pour the mac and cheese mixture into the baking pan and top with ½ cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese and 3 tablespoons panko bread crumbs. Bake for 30 minutes or until top starts to brown. Let cool for 5 minutes before serving.

Yield: 8 servings. Serving size: 1¼ cups. Per Serving: $1.31, 409 calories, 12g fat, 56g carbs, 19g protein.