I love carbonara. It is, hands down, my very favorite pasta. The true traditional carbonara is straight up bacon and eggs and pecorino with the yolk making this lovely creamy, velvety sauce. What you see in restaurants is usually all of these things and loaded with cream to boot. Decadent and HORRIBLE for you. So I’m always interested in people’s interpretations for lightening it up. I tried out this recipe from Amateurs with Knives with a few modifications: gluten free spaghetti, fat free half and half instead of evaporated skim milk, 4 strips of bacon instead of 2 strips plus 2 ounces of Canadian bacon, and I added in some mushrooms and peas for some veggie content.
The verdict: The overall flavor was good, but it absolutely does not serve 6 as a main course. I’d set it at serving 4 and then hubby and I were still hungry and split a serving. I think I’d like to try this again with some grilled chicken added. It wouldn’t constitute low cal, but certainly healthier than the restaurant version.
In the holiday season, we’re inundated with all kinds of sweet treats—almost none of which are gluten free. It’s the south. We deal. My concession one night was to make up a batch of gluten free, slightly healthier homemade brownies. These are rich, moist, and delicious. Nobody would know they were gluten free or lighter. This makes a 9×9 pan of 12 brownies at 172 calories and 6.75 grams of fat.
- 2/3 cup unsweetened applesauce
- 1/3 cup dark cocoa powder (heaping)
- 2 eggs
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 1/4 cup Splenda
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- ¾ cup gluten-free flour mix (I used Bob’s Red Mill)
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 cup milk chocolate chips
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
2. Line an 8 x 8 baking dish with foil and spray with cooking spray.
3. Mix everything but the chocolate chips until you have a nice smooth batter.
4. Add the chocolate chips.
5. Pour into prepared baking dish.
6. Bake for 25-30 minutes (don’t overcook!).
7. Allow to cool for 5 minutes, then carefully remove the foil insert and fold it down to enable easy cutting.
Chicken thighs get a bad rap. In our chicken breast obsessed world, folks seem to think that chicken thighs are horribly fatty and bad for you. Not so. If you remove the skin and fat, they aren’t bad at all, particularly compared to the ginormous multi-serving chicken breasts that seem to show up in our grocery stores. Thighs have more flavor and will stay juicier than breasts, and two of them will only set you back about 170 calories and 5 grams of fat. I like to buy the boneless, skinless ones in bulk. They’re usually cheaper than chicken breasts and come with much better, easy portion control. Plus, they take to marinades REALLY WELL. That’s what this recipe is all about. An easy marinade that’s full of flavor. Serves 2.
- 4 boneless, skinless chicken thighs, trimmed of fat
- 1 50ml bottle of tequila (the little nip size)
- 50 ml of lime juice (I just refilled the bottle the tequila came in, but you could easily use the juice of two fresh limes)
- 1 tablespoon minced garlic
- Kosher salt
- Fresh ground pepper
- Toss the chicken, tequila, lime juice, and minced garlic into a ziplock bag to marinate. You could do this as little as an hour. My chicken was frozen at the time, so it marinated all day as it thawed.
- Preheat your grill to approximately 350 degrees.
- Just before tossing on the grill, sprinkle both sides of the chicken with just a hint of kosher salt and fresh ground pepper.
- Grill approximately 5-6 minutes per side (keep an eye on them at 4 minutes in case they’re small).
- Serve with a salad or some nice Spanish style rice and black beans.
I’ve been hearing about kale the last couple of years as some kind of nutritional power house. But it’s a green and other than basic spinach, I’m not really a fan of greens. Given I’m southern, this probably breaks a law somewhere, but whatever. Sometime earlier this year, I saw kale chips mentioned on one of my Food Network programs and I thought, “Huh. Weird.” Because who ever heard of making chips out of something green? Then I kept hearing about them in one form or another, so I determined that I should try them. I prowled around the interwebs and came across this recipe for spicy kale chips from White on Rice Couple and gave it a go.
All I can say is…WOW. With the sea salt, these shockingly actually tasted like potato chips, and I loved the spicy kick from the red pepper flakes. I inhaled an entire pan’s worth (approximately half a bunch of kale) in one sitting. They were light, satisfying, and so surprising. I saved one for hubby to try when he got home. He wouldn’t touch it, so I popped it into my mouth and learned that these do not fair well too far from the oven. The bitter really came out after it had been sitting a while. But straight out after a 14 minute bake they were wonderful. Cook’s Note: I used my Misto so that they weren’t soggy from the olive oil.
Who doesn’t love chicken pot pie? It’s one of those classic comfort foods. I confess, I actually love the ones straight from the freezer section. But it’s one of those that doesn’t just scream “gluten free” OR healthy. Now I have a light and healthy version using Phyllo dough for me, but that doesn’t meet the gluten free requirement for our house now, so I had to try something different. I went with a biscuit topping, adapted from a biscuit recipe in You Won’t Believe It’s Gluten Free. The end result was delicious and rich. And best of all flavorful and healthy. Serves 4 at 679 calories and 24.5 grams of fat.
For the biscuit topping
- 3 tbs unsalted butter, melted
- 2/3 cup cornstarch
- 2/3 cup tapioca flour
- 1 tbs baking powder
- 1/2 tsp baking soda
- 2 tsp sugar
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 tsp apple cider vinegar
- 3/4 cup skim milk
- For the cream of chicken soup
- 2 ounces chopped, cooked chicken
- 3 tbs olive oil
- 1 cup skim milk
- 2.3 tbs potato starch
- 1 tsp chicken bouillon powder
For the filling
- 1 onion chopped
- 1/2 cup carrots peeled and diced
- 1 cup celery chopped
- 1 tbs minced garlic
- 4 ounces porcini mushrooms, chopped
- 4 ounces Shiitake mushrooms, quartered
- 1/4 cup green peas
- 1 cup chicken stock
- 1 tbs olive oil
- 3 cups cooked and chopped chicken
- 2 tsp kosher salt
- 1/2 tsp fresh-ground black pepper
- 1 tsp parsley
- 1/2 tsp paprika
1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
2. Heat the tablespoon of oil over medium high heat.
3. Saute the onions, celery, and carrots until softened.
4. Add the garlic and mushrooms and continue to saute until the mushrooms are cooked down.
5. Add the chicken, chicken stock, salt, pepper, parsley, and paprika.
6. Reduce heat to medium low.
7. Mix the dry ingredients for the biscuit topping.
8. Mix the 3/4 cup milk, butter, and cider vinegar.
9. Mix the wet ingredients with the dry. The batter will be thicker than you’re used to for gluten free bread. Set aside.
10. Place the chicken in a saucepan with the olive oil and bring to a simmer over medium heat.
11. Whisk the milk, potato starch, and chicken bouillon until well combined.
12. Stirring constantly, add to the pot, bring to a boil, and allow the mixture to thicken. This will happen VERY fast!
13. Add soup mixture to the skillet with the filling and stir until well combined and bubbly.
14. Pour into a 9×13 baking dish.
15. Drop spoonfuls of the biscuit topping over the top.
16. Bake for 20 minutes, until top is golden brown.
I’ve had a bottle of REAL maple syrup hanging out in my cabinet for at least a couple of months. I’ve been saving it, like gold (since it costs so much!), for something really special. Given that maple and breakfast sausage goes SO well together, I thought that a maple and sausage stuffing would be marvelous in acorn squash with a nice, savory/sweet combo. The end result is filling and delicious. Just add a salad or other veggie side and you’ve got a pretty easy and complete meal. Serves 4 at 470 calories and 13 grams of fat.
- 2 acorn squash
- 16 ounces turkey sausage
- 6 tbs maple syrup
- 1 large egg
- 4 tbs shallots, coarsly chopped
- 3 slices gluten free sandwich bread, toasted and coarsely crumbled
1. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.
2. Cut the acorn squash vertically down the center.
3. Scoop out seeds and slice a little bit off the bottom so that it’ll lay flat.
4. Place the halves face down in a baking dish and pour about a cup of water in the bottom.
5. Bake for 30 minutes.
6. Meanwhile, add the shallots and sausage to a skillet and brown.
7. Add the sausage mixture to a bowl with the bread crumbles and 3 tablespoons of maple syrup (the real stuff, none of that fake crap) and mix well.
8. After the mixture has cooled a bit, add the egg and mix well.
9. When the squash is done, flip it face side up.
10. Divide the remaining 2 tablespoons of maple syrup between the 4 squash halves, brushing it across the surface.
11. Fill the squash halves with the sausage mixture, mounding it up.
12. Reduce heat in the oven to 350 degrees and bake for another 20 minutes.
In the name of healthy, I’ve been trying out a lot more vegetarian recipes the last few months. Perhaps my FAVORITE that I stumbled across is this recipe for black bean and sweet potato burritos from One Lovely Life. The flavor of these is out of this world and they’re SO SIMPLE. You can make a big batch of the filling to keep in the fridge for fast work week lunches. Or breakfast. Anything goes. Half the time I leave out the black beans entire and add extra onions. I just LOVE the combination of sweet potato with taco seasoning. It’s marvelous. It is, naturally, great with cheese and sour cream, but it’s equally good with nothing at all, just wrapped in your favorite tortilla. This is a fast, budget and calorie friendly meal to take into the new year.