Friday, August 31, 2012

Copy Cat Olive Garden Italian Salad

Again, my suburban past rears it's ugly head. I could do without any of the mediocre pastas at the Olive Garden and I really don't even obsess over the breadsticks like some people do, but I do find myself craving the giant italian salad every once in a blue moon. I haven't set foot in one of their establishments in years, so I combed through copycat recipes to bring you the best of the best.

The recipe below serves 4 as a side.

For the dressing, you'll need:

  • 1/2 cup olive oil based mayo
  • 1/3 white vinegar (white balsamic preferred)
  • 2 tbs sugar
  • 1 tbs water
  • 4 tbs grated parmesan cheese
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/2 tbs italian seasoning
Whisk everything above together. Place in fridge to keep cold.

For the salad you'll need:
  • 2 heads of romaine
  • 1/3 red onion
  • 12 black olives
  • 10 peperoncini peppers
  • 3 roma tomatoes
  • homemade croutons (see below)
  • parmesan cheese
  • cracked pepper
Place a salad bowl, preferably glass, in the fridge so it chills. Meanwhile, chop the romaine roughly. Slice the red onion into thin slices. Quarter the roma tomatoes, removing the seeds. Throw this all in the salad bowl with the olives, peperoncini peppers and homemade croutons. Toss with about half the dressing you made, adding more or less as you'd like. Place the bowl in the fridge while you make your main dish to keep the salad chilled. When serving, grate parmesan and crack fresh pepper on top to taste, restaurant style.

OPTIONAL - you could add shaved carrots and chopped red cabbage to this recipe. I just like to keep ingredients to a minimum on principal.

Homemade croutons
  • 3 slices italian or sourdough bread (just make it good and crusty)
  • 1.5 tbs olive oil
  • 1 tbs italian seasoning
  • 1 tbs garlic salt
Line a cookie sheet with tin foil. Set oven to broil on high. Cube the bread slices into your preferred crouton size. In a small bowl, mix the olive oil, italian seasoning and garlic salt. (Sub the garlic salt for freshly minced garlic and cracked sea salt if you're feeling particularly fancy.) In a medium size bowl, toss the bread cubes with the olive oil and seasoning mix until all are evenly coated. Place under the broiler for about 1-2 minutes or until they just start to brown. Remove them from the oven and flip them, placing them back under the broiler for another 1-2 minutes. 

I can't emphasize this enough - you HAVE to keep a really close eye on these because they can go from perfectly brown to burned in 30 seconds, especially if your broiler is really intense. Know thine oven.

You can also use this same recipe to make your own garlic bread by brushing the olive oil and seasoning mix on full slices of bread or on halved baguettes. I would recommend adding parmesan or mozzarella cheese due to the principles of the cheesiness theorem, wherein all edible things on this earth are better with cheese.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Sweet and Spicy Carrot Fries

Sweet potato fries? Been there, done that. Carrot fries are just as sweet, cook more quickly in the oven, and are less calories. TRIPLE WIN!

You'll need:

  • 6 large carrots
  • 2 tbs olive oil
  • 1 tbs paprika
  • 1 tbs cinnamon
  • 2 tbs cracked sea salt
Serves 4, only 95 calories a serving

Peel the carrots and slice them into thin, and I mean thin, strips. Place on tin foil lined baking sheet. Toss in olive oil, evenly coating. Add the seasonings and toss again to make sure they cover all the carrots. Spread the carrot fries evenly on the sheet. Place in a 400 degree oven for 20-25 minutes. 

If you want them crispier, try placing them under the broiler on high for 1-2 minutes, keeping a close eye on them so you don't burn them. 

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Pressed Italian Sandwiches

Start with the good stuff and there's no way you can go wrong.

Inspired by this pin that was blowing up my Pinterest dashboard the other day, I made my own attempt at pressed italian sandwiches. You need at least 6 hours to let this flatten, so you have to think ahead on this one in your meal planning. These would be great to throw together Sunday night so dinner is just waiting for you in the fridge when you get home from work on Monday.

You'll need:

  • 1 loaf ciabatta bread
  • 2 tbs pesto
  • 6 oz fresh mozzarella
  • 4 - 6 oz of italian deli meats 
  • 1 tbs olive oil
  • 1 tbs red wine vinegar
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 2 tsp garlic salt
  • 1 cup arugula 
  • 1 beefsteak or roma tomato

Serves four.

First, we'll make a quick italian vinaigrette by whisking together the olive oil, red wine vinegar, oregano and garlic salt in a medium sized bowl. Add some fresh cracked pepper to the mix, stir, and then add in the tomato, sliced, and the arugula. Toss until the tomato and greens are evenly coated. Set aside.

Next, slice the loaf in half horizontally. I only used 3/4 of the loaf I purchased because it was GIANT. Judge roughly how much you'll need for four people. I like a high meat to bread ratio, but that's just me. 

Take 2 tbs pesto and spread it along the bottom half of the ciabatta. Add the sliced deli meats on top. I found a great mix at Trader Joe's that had salami, prosciutto and capocollo. Other great options would be mortadella or Parmacotto-style ham. Slice the mozzarella and place that in a layer on top of the meat. Top that with the arugula, tomato and italian vinaigrette mixture. Place the other half of the ciabatta on top, dummy.

Yummy layers of italian goodness.

Way too tall before shot.

Now, wrap the sandwich in cling wrap or wax paper and tie with twine or more cling wrap. Place the wrapped sandwich on a large plate or cutting board. Use a heavy skillet to flatten the sandwich. The heavier the better. Put the plate-sandwich-skillet sandwich in the fridge for at least six hours.

Here's mine before it went into the fridge. I later added some cans of food on top to really weigh this sucker down.

After six hours in the fridge.

When the sandwich has been pressed, slice into servings depending on how hungry you are. You could split this in half for two lumberjacks, or slice them into little rectangles for cocktails with the ladies. This recipe is also an ideal sandwich for a picnic or movie at the park night.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Buffalo Chicken Dip

We had a few people over on Saturday night and I once again made the chocolate chip mini cheesecakes but I wanted to try a new dip out for you, loyal readers. I read through probably a half a dozen versions of buffalo chicken dip recipes and then made, as usual, what I thought sounded best and lightened it up a bit.

You'll need:

  • 2 cans 10 oz chicken breast meat
  • 1/2 tbs whipped butter
  • 3/4 cup of buffalo/hot sauce, of which Frank's Red Hot is the fairest of them all
  • 8 oz reduced fat cream cheese
  • 1/4 cup light sour cream
  • 1/2 cup light ranch dressing
  • 1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
  • 1 tbs onion powder
  • 1 tbs garlic salt
Preheat the oven to 350. Drain the cans of chicken meat and pulse in a food processor until shredded into an even consistency. Stir together the chicken, 1/2 tbs butter, 1/4 cup of buffalo/hot sauce and salt and pepper to taste in a frying pan over medium to low heat. Heat until the butter has melted and you get a nice reddish pink mixture.

Move the seasoned chicken into an 8 x 8 casserole dish. Add in the remainder of the hot sauce, the cream cheese, softened, the sour cream, the ranch dressing and 3/4 cup of shredded cheddar cheese. Stir until evenly mixed, folding the cream cheese throughout the mixture. Then stir in onion powder and garlic salt. You can hold back on the hot sauce if spicy isn't your think or add up to another 1/4 or 1/3 cup if you like it really spicy. Too much and you'll get a runny dip. No good. 

Place the well mixed dip into the oven for 15-20 minutes or until nice and bubbly. Remove and sprinkle the remaining 1/4 cup of cheddar cheese evenly on the top. Place back into the oven for 3 to 5 minutes or until the cheese has melted. Serve with celery sticks, carrots, pretzels, pita chips, you name it!

1/16 dip = 100 calories

BONUS: On Sunday, John decided to make a grilled buffalo chicken dip sandwich with bacon. At first I thought he had lost it, but it really does have a similar feel to pimento cheese, and holy crap it was SO GOOD. Sadly, I took photos before he decided to add bacon, but I can guarantee you it was monstrously good and should be illegal. Buffalo chicken dip grilled cheese. Write that one down, kids!

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Taco Bell Bean Burrito Copy Cat Recipe

Need a quick, easy and delicious meal during your lazy weekend? This Taco Bell copy cat recipe takes about five minutes and all you need is:



Heat a griddle or large frying pan over medium heat. Spray a flour tortilla lightly with olive oil/butter spray and place on griddle. Spoon about 3 tbs of refried beans in the middle of the tortilla and spread evenly, leaving about 1/2 inch "margins" of the tortilla beanless. Sprinkle diced red onion on top, then pour 1.5 tbs of enchilada sauce over the top. Sprinkle with 1/4 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese. Wait for the tortilla to brown on the bottom, then fold it over and "sear" on each sides, basically just long enough to get the cheese nice and melty. Serve in quesadilla style for ease. 

This is ready in about five minutes and is quite honestly better than a Taco Bell bean burrito and you can feel way less guilty about eating fast food. I don't have picture of the final product because that's literally how lazy my Friday night in was. WORTH IT.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Pinterest Tested, Jackie Approved: Low Calorie Greek Yogurt Balsamic Vinaigrette

It was a long journey to find a great low calorie balsamic vinaigrette recipe. I wanted something with the creaminess of a restaurant style dressing that used only a few ingredients that I mostly kept around the house. So I tried a lot of recipes before I got here, and YOU'RE WELCOME that I'm saving you the trouble of super gross low cal mayo based messes and splenda taste ruining explosions.

Photo is not author's because she made it awhile ago and she's lazy today.

You'll need: 

  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tbs soy sauce
  • 1 1/2 tbs dijon/brown mustard
  • 3 tbs 0% Greek yogurt
  • 1/2 tbs olive oil
Calories: 64 calories for 2 tbs (recipe makes 8 servings)

Directions? Stir or whisk everything together. Store in fridge. That's it! And don't try to substitute plain yogurt for Greek, it will not end well for you. I speak from experience.

This dressing tastes way more decadent than it's caloric index and is so good on caprese anything I just can't even.

---> Here's the original post from Salad in a Jar.

So You Want to Start Cooking... Six Steps to Save Money, Eat Better, and Set Your Kitchen Up Right

I'm as much of a chef as these guys but I'm happy to help you become a slightly better than average cook.

So maybe all your cooking supplies were your roommate's in college or maybe you mostly just ate frozen meals in grad school or maybe during that first job that paid you with nickels and a smile you ate a lot of take out in an attempt to feel like a sophisticated adult on your own. I get it! And now you want to cook but you have nowhere to start and ingredient lists look daunting, like who owns that much food at one time? Also what the hell is a garlic press? And how many pans is enough pans?

I'm here to help. And we're going to do this over six posts:

  1. Pots, Pans and Utensils
  2. Spices, Condiments, Oils and Other Basics
  3. Stocking Your Pantry
  4. Stocking Your Fridge
  5. Stocking Your Freezer
  6. Random Tips That Changed My Life

I'll be rolling these out over the next couple of weeks, so stay tuned!

Simple Roasted Chicken and Vegetables

Let's all take a minute to thank Jewel-Osco's buy one, get one on chicken drumsticks and thighs that brought us this wonderful post. This gets you the feeling of a full roasted chicken without having to worry about it being unevenly cooked. Feel free to throw some breasts in the mix here if you're a white meat person.

You'll need:

  • 1.5 lbs of chicken thighs, drumsticks, breasts, wings, etc.
  • 4 ribs of celery
  • 3 carrots
  • 2 tbs butter
  • 1/2 white or yellow onion
  • 1-2 tbs olive oil
  • 4 sprigs of fresh rosemary
  • 6 sprigs of fresh thyme
  • 3 large cloves of garlic
Preheat the oven to 450. 

First, we're going to make a bed! Rough chop the celery, carrots and onion and place them in an even layer in a casserole pan (roasting pan if you've got it, but what am I, Rachel Ray over here?). Cut 2 tbs of butter into small pats or triangles and place throughout. If you want to add other veggies go for it, but non-root vegetables like squash might cook quicker than the chicken. If you want to add potatoes put them in the oven by themselves with a drizzle of olive oil for at least 30 minutes before adding the rest of the veggies and the chicken. Either way, your first layer should look like this:

Next, we're going to season some chicken! Place the chicken pieces on top of your veggie layer and give them a good drizzle of olive oil, ideally using a brush to make sure the skin is evenly coated. This will get you nice and crispy skin later. Add salt and pepper to taste. Then, top the chicken and veggies with the fresh rosemary and thyme. Fresh really will go farther with this recipe, but if you only have dried that's fine, and note that you'll need less since their flavor is more potent. Then take the garlic cloves, smash them to easily remove the peel, and then rough chop. Nestle them between the pieces of chicken. Your dish should now look like this:

Yum, raw chicken!

Now, we roast! This will take about 45-55 minutes depending on your oven. The chicken will get nice and golden brown like the picture at the top of the post and the chicken fat will fall down into the veggies and everything will be right with this world. 

This will feed about 2-3 people. My husband took the leftovers for lunch today. This is a dish that seems very impressive even though it's really simple. It's a great way to make your friends think you slaved over a dinner party all day when really you just hung out, read magazines and did your nails while the oven did all the work.

Calories will vary, but it's about 550 calories for a thigh, drumstick and a side of veggies. If you don't eat the skin you can save about 100-150 calories, but at what cost?

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

White Wine and Clams Over Angel Hair Pasta

Today's "I change every recipe I use because I'm stubborn" source is a classic Weight Watchers recipe for linguine with white wine clam sauce. First of all, who cooks for six people? Second of all, needs more veggies. Third of all, needs more flavor because I'm not counting points.

You'll need:
  •  5 oz whole grain angel hair pasta
  • 6.5 oz can of minced clams in their natural juices*
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • 1/4 medium onion, yellow preferred
  • 1 tbs olive oil
  • 1/8 cup fresh parsley or 1/2 tbs dried parsley
  • 1/4 cup white wine
  • 6 -10 cherry tomatoes, as you wish
  • 2 tbs grated parmesan
Serves two, 395 calories per serving

1) Boil water, add the dry pasta and cook until it's al dente. Set aside. 

2) Add 1 tbs olive oil to the pan on medium heat and add onion and garlic, both minced via food processor, until they begin to soften.  

3) Pour in the juice only from the canned clams and the white wine as well. Add parsley and salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a boil and let it simmer, boiling and bubbling, for about a minute once it's reached the boil. 

4) Reduce the heat to low and let it reduce for about six to eight minutes.**

5) Add the cherry tomatoes, halved and with the seeds squeezed out, and the clams from the can. Cook for an additional 45 to 60 seconds, or until the clams are warmed and the tomatoes have softened slightly. You don't want them mushy, just not raw. 

6) Add the pasta to the pan and coat evenly with the sauce, clams and tomatoes. Toss for about 45 to 60 seconds. 

7) Pour your pasta into bowls. Grate parmesan on top. Enjoy!

Optional - add a little squeeze of fresh lemon at the end. If you want to add even more veggies wilted spinach and sauteed mushrooms go great with this!

* Hey, Jackie! I've never bought canned clams before. Where the heck are they and what does it look like? Great question! They're usually near the canned tuna and salmon, and it looks like this:

** Hey, Jackie, I'm new to cooking! What does reducing mean? Even greater question! Reducing just means you're letting it thicken and you're letting the flavors make BFFs with each other in the pan so your sauce will be even richer in the end. 

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Spinach, Feta and Cherry Tomato Crustless Quich - Eat the Whole Pie for Under 550 Calories

Call this a tale of two quiches. The last quiche recipe I posted gives you that great cheesy, bacon-y, buttery crusty hug on the inside, but somedays maybe you were in New York City all weekend celebrating the engagements of two of your besties and maybe you drank a lot of prosecco and ate a lot of bagels and pizza and maybe you need to get some veggies in your digestive system this week. This is all hypothetical. Under these circumstances, I present to you a nonetheless yummy, super low calorie crustless quiche (also known as a frittata, but whatevah) where you can eat THE ENTIRE THING for under 550 calories. 

You'll need:

  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup of skim or 1% milk
  • 10 oz package of frozen spinach
  • 1/2 onion (red preferred)
  • 10 cherry tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup feta cheese
1) Preheat oven to 350. Whisk 2 eggs with the milk and add salt and pepper to taste. Set aside. 

2) Thaw the spinach and drain thoroughly to make sure you don't end up with a watery quiche. When I say thoroughly, kids, I mean THOROUGHLY. This might take you wringing it through three or more paper towels, but trust me on this one. If you have fresh spinach, steam about two cups and run it through a food processor. Mix the drained spinach with the finely diced red onion. I would recommend a food processor on that one as well but hand dicing is cool, too.

3) Add the spinach and onion mix to the egg and milk batter and stir until well mixed. 

4) In a lightly greased (PAM, yo) pie pan pour about 1/3 of the batter. Then add the feta on top of this with the goal being an even coverage over the whole area. Pour the rest of the batter on top of the feta.

5) Halve ten cherry tomatoes and place them with the seed side up on the top of the quiche. I had two different colors in my fridge which made the final product extra pretty, but that's not required.

6) Bake for about 40 minutes or until the egg mixture has settled. Settled means it's bouncy and not raw. Don't let fancy quiche terms throw ya. 



*** Credit where credit is due. This recipe is adapted from this Vegetarian Times recipe that I found to be too much work with the phyllo dough over time so I cut the calories and changed the recipe around to adjust for it as a frittata. 

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Pinterest Tested, Jackie Approved: The Best Broccoli of Your Life

Don't worry, we'll get to sweet potato oven fries later.

I've been using this roasted broccoli recipe since before Pinterest went big (mind blown, I know!) and when I spotted it on my dashboard the other day I had to share it with you guys. This is, as claimed, pretty much the best broccoli recipe ever and you'll find yourself making it all the time. You can check the original recipe here at The Amateur Gourmet, but as usual I've changed some things up slightly.

Best Broccoli of Your Life - Jackie Does Domestic Style
   ---> serves two as a side
  • 1 lb of broccoli 
  • 2 tbs olive oil
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 2 tbs grated fresh parmesan
  • 1/8 cup Pine nuts
  • Zest of a 1/2 a lemon
Set the oven to 425. DO. NOT. WASH. THE. BROCCOLI. Never, ever wash any veggie you're roasting. The bacteria will be killed in the 425 friggin' degree oven you're about to put them in, and if you wash them they will most likely end up soggy instead of crispy. Chop the broccoli  into rough pieces, throwing away the stems. Place on a tin foil lined baking sheet. This will make clean up easier and it increases roasting capabilities or something or another blah blah blah kitchen chemistry.

Drizzle the broccoli with olive oil and add salt and for the love of god PLEASE freshly cracked peppercorns, multi-color preferred. "Table" shaker pepper should be banished from this earth. Freshly cracked pepper makes all the difference and is well worth the initial $10 investment. PRO TIP - you can get peppercorns fer rilll cheap on eBay or Amazon in bulk. Toss the broccoli in the olive oil and seasonings so they all get an even coat. 

Roughly chop the peeled garlic cloves and place throughout so as much broccoli as possible sees some hot garlic action. You'll get bonus roasted garlic to either eat plain because, duh, it's delish, or save for later to make salad dressings or sauces. Place in the oven for 20-25 minutes or until the broccoli is nice and brown.

Remove from the oven and sprinkle the pine nuts throughout the broccoli batch. Place back in the oven for 3 - 5 minutes so the pine nuts get toasted but NOT burned. You're going to have to watch them really closely but I promise it's worth it. When they get golden brown you're done.

Remove tray from the oven for the final time, I promise. Grate fresh parmesan over top while it's still hot so it gets nice and melty. Zest 1/2 a lemon over top. And presto - the best broccoli of your life! This is great to add to the side of a store bough rotisserie chicken or some simple steaks. 

Simple Broccoli, Bacon and Cheddar Quiche

This is a serious slice of comfort food that's yours to devour in under an hour. 

You'll need:

  • 1 store bought pie crust
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 cup 1% milk
  • 4 strips of center cut bacon
  • 1 cup of broccoli
  • 3/4 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
  • optional bacon bits and onion powder

220 CALORIES for a 1/8 slice of the quiche


1) Preheat the oven to 375. Push the pie crust into a pie/cake pan.

2) Cook bacon and steam broccoli. I microwaved the bacon between paper towels for just under two minutes and "lazy steamed" the broccoli (chop fresh broccoli into small bites, add to microwave safe bowl, add just under 1/4 cup of water, cover with microwave safe plate and nuke for about 2 minutes).

3) In a mixing bowl, whisk together the eggs and milk. Salt and pepper to taste. Crumble the bacon and stir it in along with the chopped, steamed broccoli. Mix in 1/2 cup of cheddar cheese, leaving the remaining 1/4 cup aside. If you'd like, add in 1/2 tbs of onion powder for additional seasoning. A lot of quiche recipes include sauteed onions but I don't like the textural contrast, so I went with onion powder and loved the results.

4) Place in oven for about 35-40 minutes or until the mixture has settled and is firm on the top.

5) Pull the pie out and sprinkle the remaining 1/4 cup of cheddar cheese on top and shake on some bacon bits if you so desire (trust me, you do). Place back into the oven for 5 minutes so the cheese melts and the quiche is browned.



When it's done, let it sit for about five minutes before slicing. This is great with a side salad or a cup of soup on a cold day, and you've got leftovers to feed you for a couple more meals.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Low-Cal 5 Minute Spinach Dip

This is portioned for a few servings of a great healthy snack, but you can double or triple it for a party or to keep around in the fridge for a week. It takes 5 minutes, with 4 steps, uses 5 ingredients and is only 130 calories for the whole bowl.

What You Need:

  • 1/2 cup 0% plain Greek yogurt
  • 2 cups fresh spinach
  • 2 tbs grated parmesan
  • 1/2 clove of garlic
  • about 1/2 tablespoon hot sauce

Side notes: Fage is by far the best Greek yogurt out there. I always keep a hunk of real Italian parmesan cheese in the fridge because it lasts a long time and freshly grated has so much more flavor than the green shakey can variety, but if it's what you have around go for it. Cholula hot sauce is the love of my life, but if you're a Tabasco person that's fine, too.

Those Four Easy Steps I Promised:

1) Steam 2 cups of spinach. I do what I call "lazy steaming" where I but the fresh veggies in a microwave safe bowl and sprinkle them with just enough water to get some steam, then cover the bowl in a microwave safe plate or paper towel. 2 cups of spinach takes about 2 minutes in the microwave.

2) Add spinach to food processor along with 1/2 clove of garlic and pulse until finely chopped. If you don't have a food processor you can roughly chop the spinach by hand and mince the garlic.

3) Stir chopped spinach, greek yogurt and grated parmesan together.

4) Add hot sauce to taste. I like spice so I was closer to a full tablespoon. Remember, you can always add more but you can't take what you've added away.

Serve cold and enjoy! This is great for carrots, pretzels, Wasa crackers, spooning on top of grilled chicken breasts, you name it. 

Thursday, August 9, 2012

250 Calorie Lunch - English Muffin Pizzas

The humble English Muffin. 120 calories of nooks, crannies and carb-y goodness. They're a huge staple of my diet and yet only today did I have a revelation: "IT. CAN. BE. PIZZA!"

 "Make a pizza out of it" is my "put a bird on it."

Here's all you need to throw together this quick, easy low cal lunch:

- english muffin 
- 2 tbs pizza/spaghetti/tomato sauce
- 1.5 oz fresh mozzarella cheese 
- 2 tsp basil in a tube
- toppings as you wish!

Some quick notes: a whole grain english muffin is better for you and you know it. For my pizza today I used some jarred spaghetti sauce I had sitting in the fridge, but feel free to use canned pizza sauce or if you really want to step it up (2 THA STREETZ) and make your own marinara, my go to is Mario Batali's 15 Minute Marinara. Then you can have spaghetti for dinner and re-watch the Soprano's and marvel in how Italian you were today. For the cheese, I will always defend fresh mozzarella over the bagged shredded Americanized stuff but if that's your thang you'll need about 2 tbs of shredded cheese. 

Basil in a tube? YOU ANIMAL. My mom (Hi, mom!) turned me on to this kitchen shortcut and I'm obsessed. Fresh herbs are great and all but they don't last very long, especially when you're cooking for one or two. This swap is usually located in the produce section near the fresh herbs and the weird vegan cheese stuff that I used to eat (which still breaks my heart) and it looks like this:

It lasts in your fridge for forever and it's great for making jarred/canned sauce more zesty, adding to a caprese salad or making light dressings. Give it a shot and send me thank you letters via carrier kittens later.

In case you haven't figured out how we're going to put this together it's as easy as:

1) Heat your oven to 400 degrees. 
2) Take your english muffin and put it on an oven safe conveyance of some sort. 
3) Spoon 1 tbs of sauce on each muffin half, stirring in a bit of the basil to taste. 
4) Tear the fresh mozzarella into pieces, place strategically for levels of yum.
5) Add whatever toppings you have around. I had black olives in my fridge so, duh. Toppings add calories but you know math so I trust you'll figure it out.
6) Put that sweet 250 calorie pizza baby you just made into the oven for about 8-10 minutes or until that cheese gets bubbly and the english muffin is brown and toasty.
7) Enjoy!

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

The Manifesto

Here's what I believe in when it comes to cooking and becoming a partially domesticated adult:

1) Recipes should be simple. No elaborate steps or crazy contraptions. Nothing intimidating. No laundry list of ingredients you'll probably never use again after you make this one dish. I only keep recipes in my arsenal that I wouldn't mind cooking at the end of a crazy long work day because who the hell has time for anything else?

2) Simple does not mean you're dumb if you didn't get it before. I've taught myself cooking basics since I left college and felt like I needed to start putting real, healthy food into my body. Is my wilted spinach recipe super easy? Heck yes, but it's something I couldn't have imagined cooking for myself four years ago. And you probably feel the same way. And other people will tell you that cooking is so easy and  it's you that sucks if you didn't poach that egg correctly, but screw them, we're going to figure some stuff out together, ok?

3) Healthy is the second priority after yummy. And healthy does not mean fat free. Healthy does not mean salad greens and vinegar. Healthy means minimally processed (center cut bacon over turkey bacon 4EVA), whole foods done with a touch of good and sometimes bad fats so you're eating food that feels real and filling and satisfying. I take steps to keep calories low and ratios of meat to vegetables up, but I will never ever make a cauliflower pizza crust and try to tell you it's okay.

4) Do your best to be your best. If you start out just cooking once a week that's a huge step and I'm already suuuper proud of you!

5) I do what I want. 

Monday, August 6, 2012

Cheddar Bay Biscuit Madness

You can take the girl out of the suburbs, but you can't take the suburbs out of the girl. I still find myself craving touchstones of my chain restaurant past from time to time... the giant Italian salad from Olive Garden, Cracker Barrel's chicken and dumplings, and this Sunday morning, cheddar bay biscuits from Red Lobster. As I had already planned on cooking brunch at home, I decided to go full throttle and do egg and bacon cheddar bay biscuit sandwiches. Why? Because I'm a monster, that's why.

Top Secret Recipes does the Red Lobster staple justice. Check out the full recipe here. It's shockingly simple and made with mostly ingredients you probably already have in your cabinets. I'm still constantly shocked and surprised at the amount of delicious things you can do with Bisquick pancake mix as your base. Again, people, I can't bake that well. Cut me some slack. 

So you take pancake mix, butter, milk, cheddar cheese and some garlic powder and mix it together to create this chunky, cheesey wonder batter. The recipe says an ungreased baking sheet but screw that guy, he's not cleaning my pans afterwards. I greased it with a bit of olive oil spray to avoid burned, sticky biscuit bottoms. Then you divide the batter into a dozen biscuits using an ice cream scooper and you're ready to bake.


(yes, these are crummy iPhone photos. My nice camera battery died and I was having a lazy Sunday. DEAL WITH IT.)

Now comes the part where I go crazy and make breakfast sandwiches out of these bad boys. Pick your best biscuits in terms of egg and bacon surface area and slice them slowly and carefully through the center. Rewind back to when your biscuits were in the oven. When they've got about 8 minutes left to bake, place a cookie sheet with center cut bacon on it, as many slices as you'd like. Two per sandwich is about right, unless your husband is from Kentucky and then it's closer to four. Have you never cooked bacon in the oven before? It's suuuuper easy, no grease is spitting at your face, and you get a nice even crispness. When they're done (same time as the biscuits if you time it right) place them on a paper towel lined plate and then blot them on top with another paper towel to cut down on the grease because you've got a dress to fit into in two weeks, damnit!

Some bacon porno for ya. 

You then fry an egg, scramble some eggs into patties, whatever you want because this is YOUR lazy Sunday and you do what you want! Add one or seven mimosas on the side if you want to seriously throw down and be cool like me. 

The final product. 

Now I know what you're thinking: "Girl, I've got like ten more biscuits sitting in my kitchen. NOW WHAT DO I DO?" It's cool, dog. You're going to have a full on Red Lobster dinner later. How? You make a super easy shrimp scampi recipe that takes roughly 10 minutes to assemble and cook, throw some store bought popcorn shrimp with cocktail sauce on the side, and steam some broccoli so you can sleep better knowing you at some veggies today. 

Easy Shrimp Scampi For Two
- 1/3 pound of raw shrimp with the peel on (thawed in cold water if frozen)
- 1/3 cup of white wine
- 2 cloves of garlic, minced (get a garlic press, it will change your LIFE)
- 2 tablespoons of butter, diced into small cubes

Heat that oven to 350. Take everything above. Throw it into a 8 x 8 square pan. Bake it for 5 to 7 minutes. Shrimp is really sensitive so keep an eye on it. Take it out as soon as every last shrimp is pink all the way through. If you want more carbs on top of all the biscuits you've had today, pour everything over some pasta and live it up. Grate some parmeson on top if you feel like it. Dried parsley flakes? Why not! Just do you. 

And remember to add that steamed broccoli or a side salad because you ate a lot of butter today, yo.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Pinterest Tested, Jackie Approved: Mini Chocolate Chip Cheesecakes

photo via Baking Bites

After seeing this recipe on Pinterest, I made these bad boys for a dinner party a couple weeks back and they were a huge hit. The recipe is so simple that even I, who usually burns Tollhouse cookies to a crisp, made them without a hitch. Check out the full recipe over at the fantastic Baking Bites blog.

"Pinterest Tested, Jackie Approved" is going to be a regular series, because with all the nersty recipes being pinned out there I'm the hero your kitchen deserves.

UPDATE: I made these again and made a couple of mental notes that I wanted to update for you kids! First of all, the recipe makes more like 10 mini cheesecakes, not the 8 indicated. Secondly, you need more like a cup and a half of chocolate chips, with 1 tbs of chocolate chips down in the first layer and about 1/2 tbs of chocolate chips on top. Thirdly, they are still super crazy delicious 

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Wilted Spinach with Bacon, Mushrooms and Egg

This is one of my favorite "I have time to cook something legit" breakfasts/brunches. The wilted spinach and mushrooms alone would be great as a side to some grilled steaks, but the eggs bring it on home to breakfastville. 

The recipe is for one, so double, triple, etc. as you wish if you want to feed your roommates as an apology for not making rent on time again this month. 

You'll need:

  • 1 large non-stick pan, 1 small non-stick pan
  • Olive/Vegetable Oil spray 
  • 1 tsp olive oil 
  • 2 strips center cut bacon
  • 4 oz sliced mushrooms 
  • 1 clove garlic 
  • 3 cups of fresh spinach 
  • 1 egg your way 

CALORIES - 240 calories

1) Spray the large non-stick pan with olive/vegetable oil spray and place over medium heat. Cut the strips of bacon into rough "chunks" (not as fine as diced). Once the pan feels warm when you hover your hand over it, chuck those babies in. Stir, making sure they cook evenly on both sides, until they're as crispy as you'd like. Remove them from pan, careful to leave as much yummy bacon grease as possible, and place them on a plate with a paper towel. Set aside.

2) Add mushrooms to the pan. If you need more oil to properly sauté them, add 1 tsp of olive oil. Let them cook until they start to glisten, then add in the clove of garlic (smashed to release the flavors… mmm…) and the first bunch of spinach. Add it slowly in handfuls. When one batch gets wilted, add the next one in, stirring occasionally to get an even coat of what is now a delicious concoction of bacon grease, mushroom juice, garlic and olive oil. Salt and pepper to taste. 

3) Once the first bunch of spinach goes in, heat the small non-stick pan over medium and add your egg to the pan once it's hot. Cook the egg however you'd like it - "fried" with some olive oil spray, scrambled, substitute egg whites if you're watching calories, add a second egg if you're on a high protein diet, whatever you want. I love this recipe with poached eggs but let's be real, poached eggs can be a pain in the butt, but if you want to be a hero, go for it!

4) When the last bit of spinach has wilted strain the juices out of the mixture and plate the spinach and mushrooms. Add the egg in the center where it rightfully belongs and sprinkle the bacon bits on top of the whole dish. Enjoy!

This dish is seriously filling and packs a great protein and iron punch with just under 250 calories.